A mother tells her story at Good Counsel fundraiser

Niketa Burke and her daughter are pictured with Joann DiNoia, fundraising coordinator for Good Counsel Home South Jersey. Photo by Mary E. Stadnyk
Niketa Burke and her daughter are pictured with Joann DiNoia, fundraising coordinator for Good Counsel Home South Jersey.
Photo by Mary E. Stadnyk

BERLIN — When Niketa Burke found out she was pregnant, she didn’t tell anyone.

For seven months, the young New York resident hid her pregnancy, until it wasn’t possible anymore.

And, against her family’s objections, she decided to keep her baby.

At first, “I wanted to have an abortion, but when I heard my baby’s heartbeat, I could not,” she said. Making her decision, “my family wanted me out of the house immediately.”

Homeless and pregnant, Burke didn’t know where to turn until a friend told her about Good Counsel Homes, an organization that provides women in situations like hers, along with their babies, residential support and services.

Hearing about an open room in one of their homes in New Jersey, she was afraid at first, as she had never stepped foot in the state before.

However, “although I did not know Good Counsel, I had no doubt in my mind that this is where I was (meant) to be.”

Arriving on the doorstep, she felt “relieved, and I thanked Jesus for getting me and my baby here safely.”

Good Counsel Homes “provided me with the love and support, food and shelter, all my basic needs, and a family that supported me without judgment.”

Today, at the age of 23, with a 18-month-old daughter, she is a pharmacy technician at Walgreen’s and for the past six weeks has lived on her own, paying for an apartment for her and her child.

“I am eternally grateful” to Good Counsel Homes, she said. “Every day I look at my daughter, I thank the Lord I did not have an abortion,” she said. “Because of her, I strive to be the best I can.”

Burke shared her story last Sunday night in front of supporters, donors, and board members of Good Counsel Homes at the organization’s eighth annual fundraising banquet here at Lucien’s Manor.

Since 1985, Good Counsel Homes has provided residential support and services for homeless pregnant women and their children. The group currently operates four homes in New York and New Jersey, its closest being in Riverside.

“Every life is sacred, regardless of the manner of conception,” said Msgr. Michael Mannion, director of Community Relations for the Diocese of Camden, keynote speaker for the evening.

The homes “are primarily founded to serve Jesus Christ, through serving women,” he said. He quoted the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal James A. Hickey: “We don’t help people because they are Catholic, we help people because we are.”

Msgr. Mannion also spoke of the support the women receive not only from house managers and support staff, but from the bond they form with each other. At the homes, “stories are shared, faith grows, and the gift of life is alive and well,” Msgr. Mannion said.

The evening’s events were tempered by the recent passing of Father Benedict Groeschel, a globally-known and well-loved advocate for life, who co-founded Good Counsel Homes in New York with Chris Bell almost 30 years ago. A founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Father Groeschel died Oct. 3 at the age of 81.

The homes “probably wouldn’t have opened at all, had it not been for Father Benedict,” Bell said.

“His spiritual and professional insights offered tremendous benefit to our moving forward and growing. His guiding spirit was very much alive and, certainly, we believe that he’s praying for us. We pray that, if it’s the Lord’s will, that we continue to do what he calls us to, to continue to grow and reach more women who need our care and help.”

For more information on Good Counsel Homes, go to www.goodcounselhomes.org