Former Oblate Residence Now a Home for Human Trafficking Victims

For generations, the Andre Garin Residence was home to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate who ministered to poor and abandoned people in Lowell, Massachusetts. Recently, that former Missionary Oblate home has been transformed into a shelter for some of Lowell’s most desperate residents.

The Garin Residence is now the O’Connell House, a place that provides shelter and counseling for women who have been the victim of sex trafficking. The shelter is named after Fr. Terry O’Connell, OMI, who served as Director of the Shrine of St. Joseph the Worker. The Shrine is adjacent to the shelter.

Several years ago, Fr. Terry was approached by Deborah O’Hara Rusckowski about starting a Pure in Heart Apostolate in the area. Father Terry helped Deborah begin the ministry in Lowell which encourages young people to seek purity and chastity in their lives.

Deborah is a Critical Care Registered Nurse with an M.A. in Theology and Bioethics. Due to her work on human trafficking, she is now a Delegate for the Order of Malta Mission to the United Nations.

Deborah and Fr. Terry realized that they shared a dream of opening a safe house for women with infants rescued from human trafficking. Father Terry passed away in 2021 but the dream continued. Eventually, Deborah and her husband, Steven, purchased and oversaw the extensive renovation of the Garin Residence and repurposed it into a safe house and comprehensive care facility for trafficked women and their young children.         

The home, which was dedicated in September 2023 by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, includes 13 rooms, each with a bathroom. Two rooms are for a caregiver and for counseling/consultive services.

“As the facility neared completion, it was suggested that we name it the O’Connell House,” said Deborah. “I thought it was a beautiful idea as a way of honoring Fr. Terry for his vision to provide a place for the caring of the souls and restoring the dignity of women have been trafficked.”