Mater Filius: A pledge to love mothers
Paul Dusseault
/ Categories: Diocesan News, Respect Life

Mater Filius: A pledge to love mothers

By Paul Dusseault

COLORADO SPRINGS. The founders of Mater Filius Colorado Springs estimated it would take more than a year to raise the $2.5 million required to create a home for pregnant women in need.  Instead, the capital campaign concluded after a brief and exquisitely appropriate gestation of nine months, reaching its goal on Sept. 8, 2022, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

Indeed, the Blessed Mother’s influence is everywhere in the genesis story of Mater Filius Colorado Springs. After feeling a call to help provide women experiencing unexpected pregnancy a new alternative to abortion, social services veteran Lisa Schmitz approached her colleague, Julie Bailey, director of the Respect Life Apostolate at the Diocese of Colorado Springs, to propose the establishment of a maternity home. “I’m glad you stopped by,” Bailey told her.  “I’ve been wanting to talk to you about establishing a maternity home.” 

“My jaw just dropped,” Schmitz recalled.

“It was certainly divinely inspired parallel thinking,” said Bailey. “For years we’ve been addressing this need with short-term housing, some food assistance, referrals to various social services and the like.  But my prayer life had given me the firm impression that the Blessed Mother was tired of us pussyfooting around. She made it clear that Colorado Springs needed a maternity home.”

Schmitz, Bailey and local Catholic philanthropists Dick Eitel and Mike Faricy are the four founders of the maternity home. Schmitz now is director of Mater Filius Colorado Springs, along with her husband, Tony. The 10-bedroom residence is sanctioned by the diocese but has no faith restrictions on clients. Any woman, age 13 to mid-40s, can apply for assistance. The home accommodates up to 10 pregnant women and any children they already have who are under age five. Families can live there for up to eight months after delivery.

The name “Mater Filius” comes from the Latin words for “mother and child.” The home is located on the campus of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Briargate, which is leasing the property to the organization at a nominal fee, and several contractors have discounted some of the construction costs. It is scheduled to open formally in January 2024.

“Many women are motivated to consider abortion by housing insecurity and financial difficulties,”  said Bailey.  “Offering an alternative to those women has a tremendous impact.”

And the need is great.

“Since posting our website  I’ve been getting calls from pregnant women asking if we are open,” said Schmitz.  “We’ve been referring them to other resources, of course, but just based on that interest I’m sure we could have filled this facility three times over already.”

The only conditions Mater Filius puts on applicants is that they be pregnant and open to change.

“We’re not a domestic violence shelter, or a drug rehab center, or a legal aid society,” explained Schmitz. “But we do ask our mothers to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lives, seek sustainable work, further their education, and develop life skills.”

To that end, trained volunteers at Mater Filius will be providing more than childcare, transportation, and meals. Skills workshops for residents cover parenting, lactation, personal finance, spirituality, and managing a home. All residents are assigned a mentor. The Mater Filius program, already established in 22 other locations, sustains relationships for years after residents leave the facility.

“A common criticism of the pro-life movement is that advocates only care about the baby, not about the mother,” said Schmitz.  “That’s never really been true, but Mater Filius is a definitive answer. We seek to defend life with love by helping pregnant women, offering a path forward that includes support, resources, and spiritual guidance.”

“Catholic theology always has been a ‘both/and’ rather than an ‘either/or’ proposition,” said Bailey.  “Unborn children need our help. Mothers need our help.  We’re called to serve both.”

And the lives of women served can sharply improve.

“Growing up in a broken home wasn’t easy. I wasn’t taught how to love or care for another person,” said Sophia, an alumna of the long-established Mater Filius facility in Omaha, Nebraska. “Mater Filius didn’t only teach me how to be a mother and an independent person. They taught me to love myself as a child of God. I don’t know what I would do without them.”

Mater Filus Colorado Springs is staffed primarily by volunteers. The most urgent current need, according to Schmitz, is for monthly donors; regular and predictable gifts are crucial to the ability to plan and budget the $250,000 annual operating costs. The facility also posts a wish list on its website (https://materfiliuscs.org/) seeking specific items such as pillows, diaper pails, rocking chairs, mattress covers, and white noise machines.

“Mater Fillius is more proof that the Respect Life movement will not abandon mothers after birth,” said Bailey.  “I think it will be a real game changer.”

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