Joseph’s House: A labor of love

Joseph House Official Pix

Joseph House Official PixProposed residence to deliver hope for pregnant women

By Pat Shea
Sun associate editor
God may have asked Noah to build an ark, but for Kitty Spinelli, He asked for a garden, which led to the concept of Joseph’s House, a nurturing environment for pregnant women searching for an alternative to abortion. The proposed residence, with an expected complete date by 2014, will be staffed 24/7, and is expected to house up to eight mothers and their newborns to start, with room for growth. In addition to housing, residents of Joseph’s House will be taught life skills and vocational training, and for potential residents who haven’t completed high school, educational assistance and services will be available.

   Just how did God’s call for a garden evolve to include a residence for pregnant women in need? All it took was a little faith.

   In May 2004, one of Spinelli’s children was rushed to the hospital in critical condition following a serious accident. As she faced the possibility of losing her child, Spinelli discovered a rosary she hadn’t used since childhood. Leaning on her faith, Spinelli prayed for God to save her child’s life. Her child eventually recovered and through the experience, Spinelli’s faith grew stronger. She began regularly praying in front of Planned Parenthood, going to confession, attending Mass and spending time with the Lord at Eucharistic Adoration.

   In March 2010, after praying outside a Planned Parenthood facility, Spinelli attended Adoration. As she knelt to pray, thoughts of creating an Adoration chapel behind her husband’s business in Syracuse began to form in her mind.

   “I thought it couldn’t happen because we didn’t have anyone to watch over the chapel,” explained Spinelli. “But then I started thinking we could build a home to help pregnant girls and they could help us take care of an Adoration chapel.”


   As she kneeled and considered the idea, Spinelli began laughing. “I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to build anything, how am I going to build a house for pregnant women?’” Spinelli then heard God’s response: ‘Start with a garden.’” Two months later, Spinelli had created an Adoration garden on the west side of Syracuse and people began to come and pray. [For more information on this unique garden, turn to page 10 of this issue].
   In October of 2012, Spinelli attended the Catholic Women’s Conference in Syracuse and shared her vision of a home for women facing unplanned pregnancies to receive physical, emotional and spiritual help with Jeannie Owens and Shannon Guy from the Syracuse 40 Days for Life campaign.

   “There is nothing like [Joseph’s House] in Central New York but we had a great need for something like it,” said Spinelli. “And once it was built I knew it would have a chapel. In fact, I started off wanting to create a chapel, then a house and then a garden. I ended up doing it backwards,” Spinelli said with a laugh. “My biggest concern was I didn’t know anything about building a house or starting a business or creating a website. So I told the Lord, ‘You need to send me people who can help. Send me someone who knows about building.’”

Jet-propelled, faith-filled team

   Project manager Maria Miller also attended the 2012 Catholic Women’s Conference and stopped by the 40 Days for Life table. For two years Miller felt God had put a calling on her heart that she was to build something new. Miller also shared this desire with Owens and Guy.

    “I knew God wanted me to build something, I just didn’t know what,” said Miller with a laugh. Miller had experience in the building industry working with Habitat for Humanity, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” television show that was filmed in Geneva, N.Y., and on the Masterpol home renovation project in Mattydale that was organized by Le Moyne College and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center. Miller not only had a strong background in project management, she had contacts in the building industry as well.

    Owens contacted Spinelli and explained Miller shared Spinelli’s desire to build. Spinelli contacted Miller and the two became partners on the project as well as friends.

   “She [Miller] was amazing, simply amazing,” Spinelli said. “She had all the information we needed to start the project.”

   Miller enlisted the help of her brother, entrepreneur Barry Vaughn, who helped organize a steering committee and a board of directors. With Miller and Vaughn’s help and mentoring from Good Counsel Homes, a private non-profit agency in the greater New York area that has five such homes that help homeless pregnant women, Spinelli’s dream was swiftly on its way to coming true.

   “If it wasn’t for Barry and Maria I wouldn’t be sitting here,” said Spinelli. “They both are like jet propelled engines moving this project along.” Vaughn smiled.
 “God continues to send people [to help with Joseph’s House] with incredible knowledge, resources and a passion to save lives,” stated Vaughn.  

Funding needed to complete project

   With the project currently in the Founding and Funding phase, considerable resources are still needed to get the project off the ground.  

    “To date we have raised over $100,000 but our goal is to reach $800,000 by December 2013. We still have work to do, but with God’s help and the support of the community, we will be successful,” stated Vaughn.

   To gain funding for the project, Miller, Spinelli, Vaughn, Jennifer Johnstone, and other team members have made several presentations to organizations, individuals and parishes throughout the diocese, explaining the concept of Joseph’s House. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

   One of the project’s greatest supporters is Father Richard Prior of Holy Family Church in Syracuse. Father Prior has helped the team set up a fund for the project and he serves on the board for Joseph’s House.

   As funds begin to come in, the dream of Joseph’s House is slowly becoming a reality for Spinelli. The group recently found a house to use as the residence, eliminating the need to build a new structure. The house, which is located on the north side of the city of Syracuse, will be renovated to fit the needs of the potential residents and foster a family-like atmosphere. Mothers and their newborns will have a private bedroom, but residents will share common living, dining and recreational space. True to Spinelli’s original vision, Joseph’s House will have an Adoration chapel, encouraging residents to pray, receive the sacraments, attend retreats and create a spiritual community together. The chapel will be dedicated to Audrey Gleason, a Holy Family parishioner of strong faith who was well loved in the Syracuse community and tragically killed in a car accident in 2012.

   “If I think about how the project came to be, one step at a time, I see the path that God laid out,” explained Spinelli. “Everything I have done, all the people I have met have been in God’s plan — even the name, Joseph’s House. I knew it would be called Joseph’s House from the start. Who loved and supported Mary when she was pregnant?” asked Spinelli. “It was Joseph.”

   The launch date of Joseph’s House is expected in March of 2014, tentatively on St. Joseph’s Day, but for Spinelli, the opening will also reaffirm the promise she made to God as her child fought for life nine years ago.

   “God saved my child,” Spinelli said softly. “Now we can help mothers in need save theirs.”

   Support for Joseph’s House can be sent to Joseph’s House, c/o Holy Family Church, 127 Chapel Drive, Syracuse, NY 13219. For more information on Joseph’s House, visit or call (315) 288-0319.

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