MiraVia at 10: Pro-Life Effort Helps College-Age Moms and Their Children Flourish
Catholic actor Jim Caviezel to join celebration of residential endeavor’s decade milestone.
BELMONT, N.C. — As college students stepped on to the Belmont Abbey College campus this fall to begin a new academic year, MiraVia (“Miraculous Way”) quietly reached a special anniversary: 10 years of providing love, practical support and encouragement for pregnant and parenting moms who are pursuing a higher education, a milestone that they’ll celebrate Oct. 21 at the annual banquet with keynote speaker Jim Caviezel.
MiraVia was founded in 1994, and the doors of this college-based residential facility opened a decade ago as a new frontier in serving pregnant women in need. It was the realization of a dream made possible by the support of the Benedictine monks of Belmont Abbey, the Knights of Columbus and MiraVia donors.
Since 2013, this ground-breaking residential program has sheltered pregnant college students from around the country; the young women in need hail from nine different states and 13 colleges. These women and their children are paving the way for similar outreach efforts worldwide, and opening the hearts and minds of young adults to embrace their peers at college who are juggling higher education and parenthood.
Bianca Nanje was MiraVia’s first mom welcomed at the residence in the summer of 2013. “MiraVia paved the way for my future,” she said. “I don’t think that I would be where I am today if I didn’t have that support. I received a full scholarship to go to school. Having that support allowed me to get my education and have people to help me and my son, Kasen. That start led me to my current life now.”
Nanje joined the U.S. Army in 2017 and now works as an ordinance officer with a water company in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Her husband is in the Marine Corps, and their family has expanded to include two more children in addition to 10-year-old Kasen.
“I am very happy with the outreach of our monastery and college communities in supporting MiraVia,” said Benedictine Abbot Placid Solari. “A commitment to the sanctity of human life needs to include effective programs to meet the needs of vulnerable women facing unplanned pregnancies. This is especially the case with young college women.”
Cindy Brown served as the executive director of Room at the Inn (now MiraVia) when the college residence program was only a dream. She met Abbot Placid shortly after he came to Belmont Abbey and recalls an early conversation with him.
“He said, ‘I understand some day you want to expand. If you would like to come to the abbey, you are welcome to come. The abbey would own the property, but you can build. I have to go to the monks to get approval, but you are welcome to come,’” Brown recalled.
Shortly after that, the abbot joined the board of Room at the Inn, a position he still holds today. And the rest, as they say, is history. The monks approved the building of the 13,000-square-foot facility with private rooms to accommodate up to 15 moms, their babies and the MiraVia residential supervisors.
Kathleen Reitmeyer is one of Miravia’s most recent graduates. She majored in business management and accounting at Belmont Abbey College while raising her son, Oliver, and is employed by the small accounting firm she worked for while pursuing her bachelor’s degree.
“I wouldn’t have graduated without MiraVia,” Reitmeyer said. “It was amazing for me! They treated my son’s dad as an honorary MiraVia dad there. He came by during the week, and the other moms loved their babies playing with him. It was nice that the staff was open to our relationship with him.”
Reitmeyer is now engaged to be married, and the couple is planning an October wedding at Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury, North Carolina, where her son was baptized.
“MiraVia was like a family. They opened doors for me, made me feel at home,” she said. “It was bittersweet leaving the place that was home for two and a half years.”
Debbie Capen, MiraVia’s executive director, wishes there was a college residential facility when she was in college and was faced with an unplanned pregnancy. She has shared publicly her sorrow over choosing abortion back then, giving her testimony many times over the years as a member of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign as well as to the Register.
“I felt utterly alone when I discovered I was pregnant as a rising sophomore. With no support and having drifted away from my faith, I believed the lie that abortion was the answer. Now I grieve the loss of that dear child every day. Sadly, 40% of women my age have also experienced abortion, and I pray that we can stand up together to provide the support system we lacked.”
“Would that every Catholic college had a residence like MiraVia,” Abbot Placid said. “I am grateful to all who support this good work. MiraVia not only offers college women the opportunity of continuing their education and keeping their child, but it is also a powerful witness to our campus community of the truth of the pro-life message and what support can be accomplished with creativity and commitment.”
And that opportunity and witness is a blessing for the young moms and their children.
“While I was at MiraVia, I didn’t want any of the services they offered to go to waste,” Nanje explained. “I was trying to get as much done in those two years as possible, so I took extra classes and stayed up reading all night sometimes. My goal was to utilize every opportunity given to me to create the best future for myself and my son.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
MiraVia is currently accepting applications from pregnant college students interested in the two-year program. More information is available on the MiraVia website at MiraVia.org.