Visitation House Inc. was envisioned by Mrs. Ruth Pakaluk (1957-1998), mother of seven and dedicated supporter of life in Massachusetts. Ruth recognized the urgent need to establish a home for pregnant women in Worcester County, one that would surround them with a culture of life and allow them to choose life for their babies and for themselves. Ruth died heroically and with great faith at only 41 years of age after a seven-year struggle with breast cancer and did not get to see her vision come to life.
Not long after her death, a group of social service providers and active pro-life advocates, many of whom were Ruth’s friends, was assembled at the request of now retired Bishop Daniel P. Reilly to study the need and feasibility of such a home for pregnant girls. The committee consisted of members of various organizations, including the Guild of Our Lady of Providence; You, Inc.; numerous Diocesan agencies; area crisis pregnancy centers; and Central Massachusetts Citizens for Life. After an exhaustive analysis, the committee determined that an urgent need existed for services similar to the ones provided by the Diocese at Merrilac Manor.
The committee found that Problem Pregnancy, a local crisis pregnancy center, receives 6 requests per week for emergency housing. They surveyed other social service providers who reported more than 100 requests from pregnant teens for housing each year. These organizations welcomed the idea of Visitation House Inc. to address this unmet need.
Because of their homelessness, because of the lack of support and the feelings of alienation, these women were largely choosing abortion as the only viable option. In the face of these statistics and with the support of now retired Bishop Reilly, this group of Ruth’s friends established Visitation House Inc. as a non-profit corporation in 2001 and formed its Board of Directors.
Following the assessment of need and the preliminary feasibility study, a development program was established. The committee determined the appropriate residential program model, as dictated by the type of home they wanted to create – one that would model for these girls the idea of Christian family life, which both welcomes and gives life.
After intense analysis of the current real estate market and numerous visits to potential sites including triple-decker homes, vacant convents and rectories, large single-families, the Board determined in 2003 that new construction would be most cost effective and efficient. After hiring Joseph John Mammi as Executive Director and his wife Jessica as House Manager in July of 2004, the Board put JJ in charge of searching for a large single-family home for rent as a temporary location during construction. JJ and Jessica were both 2003 graduates of the College of the Holy Cross and lived at Visitation House Inc. from May 2004 through October 2007 as house parents for the program.
In October of 2004, Fr. Peter Scanlon, Diocesan Vicar for Colleges and Universities and fellow Holy Cross alumnus, wrote to JJ about the vacant building at 119 Endicott Street (formerly Saint Mary’s Convent) and the possibility of leasing it as an initial location for Visitation House Inc. With over 15 bedrooms, the building turned out to be more than ideal, and plans to build were dropped. On December 13, 2004, Visitation House, Inc. signed a long-term agreement with the Diocese of Worcester to lease the convent.
After five months of renovations and construction, of organizing and planning, of writing a policy manual and preparing our new ministry, Visitation House Inc. opened its doors on the Feast of the Visitation, May 31, 2005. Ten days earlier, the Board of Directors, staff, and about one hundred excited and supportive community members gathered for an open house to celebrate this wonderful event: the opening of a Catholic home of hospitality and hope for women facing crisis pregnancies. At 2pm that day, Bishop McManus came and blessed the home.
Since opening in 2005, we have welcomed over 200 women to our home. JJ and Jessica Mammi lived at Visitation House Inc. from May 2004 through October 2007 as house parents for the program. In March 2007, Eve Lindquist was named Executive Director. Then, in 2016, Veronica Hachey was named Director of Operations and Human Resources. In addition, our many staff members, cover day, evening and weekend shifts. Over the years, many other generous men and women have also dedicated their time, talent and treasure to this life-saving ministry.