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Archive of December 4, 2010

Parents in open adoption are grateful

Lawrenceville, Ga., Dec 4, 2010 (CNA) - Evelyn sat on her mom’s lap, with a toothless grin on her face. A little spit up came out, and her new dad, Virin, jumped to get a burp cloth to clean the mess.

Evelyn arrived in August, and the Vedders are getting used to the early feedings and the late nights once again.

“I’m thankful for her 50 times a day, every day. Your heart just expands fivefold. Her smiles just brighten your day,” said Kristie, holding back tears.

Families come together at this time of year and remember what’s important. The Vedders have even more to be thankful for this year as their family gathers in their comfortable home. The Vedders are among three families that adopted children in 2010 through Catholic Charities Pregnancy, Parenting & Adoption program. The waiting list is now closed until the backlog of families has been cleared.

Originally from Ohio, the Vedders are college sweethearts. They both have teaching backgrounds, although Kristie now is a mom who stays at home. Virin, who is 37, is an assistant principal for the Gwinnett County public school system.

They were globetrotting young professionals, seeing the sights from Paris to South America. They enjoyed good restaurants at the time, but now they are more interested in family-friendly restaurants than those with white tablecloths.

What’s funny for Kristie is that while her friends, who had kids, were jealous of their lifestyle, she longed to raise kids.

After multiple miscarriages, the Vedders decided to take another route to having a family. “We just came to the conclusion that God has different plans for us,” said Kristie, 39, who worships, with her husband, at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn.

Their son, Corey, who is 2 1/2, was adopted. And in 2009 the couple was ready to expand their family once again with the help of Catholic Charities’ program. They put together a book of interests—lists of favorite actors, restaurants, foods, along with lots of family photos. The book tells birth parents about their history—how they’ve known each other since college, how they long for a second child so their son has a younger sibling, and how they’d raise the child in the Catholic Church.

They were prepared for a long wait since their first son had taken many years to arrive.

“We were just waiting for the right couple to come along,” said Kristie, sitting in their comfortable home in a leafy neighborhood of Georgian-style brick homes in Lawrenceville.

Heather Smith, the coordinator of adoption resources, said Catholic Charities has a waiting list of 15 couples. Families can wait as long as two years, depending on the requests of the birth mother, she said.

“We are presently not taking any more new applicants as we would like to get placements made with the families that are waiting,” she said.

For the Vedders, the right couple came along quickly. They were at a rest stop in North Carolina on a road trip in July when a phone call told them a couple had selected them to parent their child. It was unexpected. They figured they’d be waiting for months, like they had the first time. Virin had just taken apart Corey’s crib.

“This was not at all on our radar,” he said.

The birth parents were teens. “Drew,” 16, and “Willow,” 15, looked at profiles of five couples and chose the Vedders. They liked that their daughter would have an older brother, as well as the pictures that showed a happy Corey and the details about the Vedders’ life together.

“It may not be the best for us, but it was for her,” said Willow, who has blue eyes and likes to paint. She and Drew live near Alpharetta. (The names of the teen couple have been changed to protect her privacy.)

Soon the couples met, introduced by the staff at the adoption agency. These meetings can have a feeling of an awkward first date, with everyone on their best behavior. But the uncomfortable feelings melted away.

“It’s a click. It fit,” said Virin.

A second meeting on Aug. 2 was scheduled. But that night, Evelyn Marie, at 7 pounds and 12 ounces, was born. The couples met a second time at Northside Hospital where the Vedders got to see their daughter shortly after her birth.

Two days later, Evelyn was brought home. Kristie, tearing up, called the experience a “bittersweet” moment. The birth parents had their goodbyes, then Kristie and her husband left the hospital with their daughter.

“It was hard,” said Willow. “I cried five days straight.”

But because it is an open adoption—in which contact between birth parents and the child continues after an adoption is finalized—the birth parents get to experience milestones. In fact, when Evelyn rolled over for the first time, Kristie captured it on her iPhone and texted the video to the birth parents.

Virin said they are pleased with the arrangement. It is natural for a child to know their family tree, he said, and birth parents have the option to get to know their child.

Indeed, even Evelyn’s name was given to her by her birth parents and the Vedders embraced it. The name means “little bird,” which is a childhood nickname for Willow and her middle name—Marie—is shared with Kristie’s mom.

The open adoption helps Willow.

“If we’re having a bad day, sometimes we’ll get videos. We can look at the videos and see that she’s happy,” she said.

Drew, who is Catholic and involved in arts in his high school, said, “Evelyn will probably get to see the world with them.”

Three months on, the milestones have begun. The couples and the children have met, gathering at Shorty Howell Park in Gwinnett County for an afternoon. Corey got trucks and toys from Drew and Willow.

Evelyn was baptized in October. Both she and her older brother are being raised in the Church.

The teens, too, say they have much to be thankful for this year.

“I’m thankful that she’s with such a great family,” said Willow, who expects to maintain a relationship with the Vedders, even though she knows it’ll change.

“The Vedders are so sweet to us. They always tell us what is going on. We never miss a diaper change,” said Drew.

Virin wakes up early now for a feeding, while getting ready for work. Kristie looks forward to the bedtime ritual of story time and meeting with her Mom’s Circle at their parish.

“We are just beginning our journey,” Virin said.

Printed with permission from the Georgia Bulletin, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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US bishops encourage Congress to pass DREAM Act

Washington D.C., Dec 4, 2010 (CNA) - Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles has articulated the U.S. bishops' support for the DREAM Act, a proposal that would grant citizenship to many children whose parents brought them into the U.S. illegally.

The Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, Archbishop Gomez advocated the act's passage in a Dec. 2 letter to the U.S. Congress. He described the DREAM act as “a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons” who had not voluntarily broken the law.

“It is important to note that these young people entered the United States with their parents at a young age,” he wrote, “and therefore did not enter without inspection on their own volition. We would all do the same thing in a similar situation.” Many of them, he said, have never known any country other than the U.S.

The act's full title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It would allow young people who entered the United States before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship, as long as they completed two years of higher education or military service.

The act's main support in Congress comes from Democrats, many of whom consider it an effective and fair solution to a problem that young people did not bring on themselves. However, some Republicans have warned that the bill would create more incentive for others to enter the country illegally in the future.

A spokesperson for Senator John McCain (R – Ariz.) has said the 2008 presidential candidate, a former sponsor of the bill, now “opposes the DREAM Act and believes we must secure our borders first.” Most Republicans currently oppose the act, and some have threatened to block its passage with a filibuster. President Barack Obama strongly supports its passage.

Archbishop Gomez called attention to a number of qualifications in the bill, which differentiate it from the blanket immigration amnesty some Republicans fear.

He explained that it allows “deserving immigrant youth” to become permanent residents, provided they meet certain age and circumstance requirements, have “demonstrated good moral character, have no criminal record and … have earned their high school diploma.” The further step of citizenship would require two years of college or military service.

Given these requirements, the archbishop said, the act's passage was not only a matter of fairness, but an opportunity for the U.S. to reward hardworking and motivated young people who could otherwise be forced to leave.

“Those who would benefit,” he offered, “are talented, intelligent, and dedicated young persons … They can become some of the future leaders of our country, provided we are wise enough to provide them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

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Kansas-based priest to become bishop in Myanmar

Salina, Kan., Dec 4, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Fr. Alexander Cho goes where he's needed. The Burmese priest came to Kansas in 2007 to help fill a shortage of priests, but he'll soon be returning home to become the Bishop of Pyay, Myanmar.

Pope Benedict XVI announced the new appointment of the bishop-designate on Dec. 3. He will leave behind his two parishes in Kansas and return to the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar –also known as Burma– after Christmas. There, he expects to be consecrated as a bishop next spring.

While his adopted country struggles with a priest shortage and many cultural challenges, those difficulties pale before the obstacles facing the Catholic Church in Myanmar. The country became a military dictatorship in 1962, and citizens have almost none of the religious and civil rights that Americans take for granted. While worship is allowed, most other religious activities are not.

Four priests from Myanmar, where Western countries once sent their own Catholic missionaries, currently work in the Diocese of Salina in Kansas. Fr. Cho was ordained a priest for the Burmese Diocese of Pyay in 1975, and served for more than two decades as a pastor there. The bishop-designate was also rector of Myanmar's major seminary for seven years.

“The priests in Burma heard about the need for priests in the United States,” he told CNA  on Dec. 3. One of their compatriots who had come to America noted the clerical shortage, and put the word out back home. That was how Fr. Cho ended up coming to Salina to work double-duty as the pastor of St. Mary's and St. Aloysius Gonzaga parishes.

That experience, the bishop-designate said, provided important lessons that he would take back with him to his native Pyay. “I've learned many, many things,” he reflected, especially from observing the “systematic running of the diocese,” and sharing in the “very friendly and very brotherly” spirit in which the hard-working priests support one another.

This lesson in mutual support could prove to be especially important for Burmese Catholics, who comprise less than two percent of a nation that is around 80 percent Buddhist. An even smaller proportion of the people residing in the Diocese of Pyay are Catholic, reportedly less than one percent.

The future bishop of the diocese noted it would be “very hard” to convert some residents whose Buddhist practice is closely tied to their regional and tribal identity. Yet he was optimistic about opportunities for evangelism, mentioning a “very great hope” for the Church's growth in areas where Buddhism is less dominant.

Fr. Cho predicted it will be difficult to fulfill the Church's entire social and cultural mandate, under a regime that grants almost no freedom to its citizens. In this context, he said, the Church in Myanmar will have to be “very careful” to preserve its current small measure of freedom.

“The government is trying to control everything,” he observed. “At present, it is very hard to change the whole system … they have their power, they have their guns. So it is not easy to change the situation at present. I don't see a very good future yet.”

The bishop-designate's leadership will be urgently needed. “Because of the improper governing, people are also becoming worse in their morality, in their livelihood, in their education, all these … The situation is becoming worse.”

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