Ocean Springs, Miss., Feb 2, 2013 (CNA) - Jackie White’s greatest Christmas gift didn't come wrapped in pretty paper and adorned with a bow.
It wasn’t a new car, an iPhone or one of the latest and greatest electronic gadgets.
It was her birth mother.
After extensive research, White located her biological mother, Bette Fanning, who had given her up for adoption in 1965.
“I was a single mother. I had been divorced from my first husband. I had three boys. I just felt like I couldn’t raise her as good as somebody else might be able to,” said Fanning, who was living in Quincy, Mass. when she made the decision to give Jackie up for adoption.
“At the time, my brother and his wife lived in Florida, so all of the kids and I came down to Florida and that’s where I had Jackie. My brother found me a doctor and the doctor was the one who knew a lawyer that dealt in adoptions. I never saw her. I just knew that she was a girl.”
White, who grew up in Pascagoula, Miss. and attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and Our Lady of Victories High School, was a child when her parents told her that she had been adopted. “I was probably eight years-old,” she said.
By the time she learned she was adopted, White’s adopted parents had already been divorced for just over three years.
“He remarried about a year later and he and his wife were the ones that raised me,” said White, who was pregnant with her first son when she began the search for the woman who gave her the gift of life.
“I was 19,” she said. “I tried to go through resources that I knew (to find her).”
One of those resources was Ocean Springs resident Lettie White, her future mother-in-law. “She tried to help me go in the right direction and did as much research as she could,” Jackie White.
Fanning also thought about trying to find the girl she gave up at birth.
“Then I kind of got the feeling that maybe she wouldn’t accept me and you don’t want that rejection,” said Fanning, who is a parishioner of St. Anastasia Parish in St. Augustine, Fla. and a worker with the Diocese of St. Augustine’s Catholic Charities office .
“But (Jackie) got brave and she did it.”
It took 26 years for Jackie White, who is the mother of two boys and a girl, to find her mother.
“I never had the official legal document of the adoption, so sometimes I would search for that document because I didn’t know if the document would be in Mississippi or in Florida where I was born,” she said.
"So I wrote different agencies and researched hospitals. It would get so frustrating that I would finally just have to stop for a while because it kind of gets to you and you just have to put it down and stop.
“I did that numerous times over the years. I would always hit brick walls. When you don’t have a name or a true address, you don’t have these things that are so important and it makes it very difficult. When you’re adopted, your birth certificate is completely altered. So there wasn’t even a hospital name on it.”
Jackie White said that after her adopted father died, things began to fall into perspective.
“It kind of put into perspective how not many people may be around who know the story or have information,” she said. “He was never of any help in that direction, so Lettie and I got a lot more serious about it right after he died.”
Their revamped efforts led them to the Jackson County archives in Pascagoula.
As a child, Jackie White was involved in a case before the Mississippi State Supreme Court, which is recorded in the State Archives in Jackson. As a result, with the help of the Jackson County archivist, she was able to find information in those records that would eventually help her to find her mother.
“There were over 500 pages of legal documents and that’s where I was able to find my adoption record with the name that she had whenever I was born. After we found the paperwork with the name on it, it didn’t even take a month before we connected.”
Lettie White, a genealogy buff who spent many years trying to find her own grandmother, said she was thrilled at the challenge of helping her daughter-in-law locate her mother.
“It still gives me goose bumps when I think about it,” she said.
On the day she went to Jackson to comb through page after page of legal documents, Jackie was optimistic that she would find some information. “But I didn’t know how it would pan out,” she said.
“I was all by myself when I found all of this information,” she said. “I was in the library where it was very quiet and I wanted to scream. I was looking around for somebody to share it with. There were two or three people in there. They didn’t care.”
After obtaining a copy of the adoption record and some other files, including some photos, Jackie called Lettie to inform her that after 26 years of searching, they had finally hit pay dirt.
Soon after, she called her birth mother.
“The phone rang and I was thinking, oh no, because this was when all of the politicians were calling, so I go, ‘What are you selling?’ and she goes, ‘Hello’ and I go ‘What are you selling?’ and she goes ‘Nothing’ I think she said, “Is Elizabeth Fanning there?’ And I go, ‘Why? Is she missing?’” Fanning recalled.
“And I never said that to anybody in my life. And she goes, ‘I hope not.’ After that, she asked me if I had a daughter on December 2, 1965 and I took a deep breath and said, ‘Are you my daughter?’”
The two hit it off right away.
“We talked for three hours that night,” Jackie White said.
“She was asking me what height I was, what color eyes I have and comparing everything,” said Fanning, who has a distinct Massachusetts accent.
“Then she said, ‘We want to come down and see you, if that’s alright with you.’ I said, ‘Of course.’”
So, on Aug. 6, 2011, the two met for the very first time in Saint Augustine. Jackie had previously sent her mother a few pictures of herself. “I wouldn’t send her any because I wanted her to be surprised,” Fanning said.
When they finally met, Jackie was seeing her mother’s face for the very first time. “We had a good visit and a good laugh,” Fanning said. “Her husband, Jerry, hugged me as he came through the door. It was a very relaxed atmosphere.”
Jackie said Jerry has been “one of my biggest supporters” throughout the entire search.
“He was really excited for her,” said Fanning. “There was a lot of honest talk. Nobody was stiff about anything. It was a miracle. It’s still a miracle."
“We’re still pinching ourselves,” added Jackie.
What Jackie ultimately got was a package deal consisting of three new brothers – two older and one younger -- to go along with her mother. Another of Fanning’s sons is deceased.
Meanwhile, Fanning, who is widowed, has added three grandchildren and a great-grandchild to the fold.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I had four grandchildren and now I have seven.”
Like mother, like daughter
Jackie said she has never felt any bitterness toward Betty for putting her up for adoption.
“There was always the question of (why). My adoptive parents would tell me stories but, for whatever reasons, none of the stories they told me were true. I never had any bitterness about it because, as a mother, I feel that, if you give a child up for adoption, it’s under extreme circumstances. I can’t feel bad for anyone who makes a decision based on the information they have at the time.”
Fanning said she is proud of the woman Jackie has become.
“I told her the other day that, if I was going to pick a daughter, that would be her,” she said.
"She’s perfect. She sews. She owns her own sewing business (Jackie’s in Ocean Springs). And she cooks up a storm.”
The two have learned that they also have a few things in common.
“We drop things a lot and trip a lot,” Fanning said.
“When they came down to St. Augustine and I was in the kitchen banging things in the cupboard, Jerry said, ‘You sound just like Jackie.’ My husband always said that too. He would say, ‘Why are you making so much noise?’ because I was always dropping a dish or breaking something.”
“I think we are a lot alike in certain things, which kind of goes along with the understanding of psychology and sociology and genetics versus your social environment,” Jackie said. “We’re very similar in our personal tastes as girls.”
"They showed up for Thanksgiving dinner wearing almost identical outfits,” Lettie White said.
Now that they are reunited, Jackie and Bette plan to stay in touch.
“Absolutely,” said Jackie. “We talk for hours and hours. We stay up late talking on the phone. And, before we met in person, it didn’t occur to me, that she was an hour ahead of me and I was keeping her up way past what I would consider to be a decent hour.”
“It’s ok,” said Fanning. “You can call me anytime.”
Having a daughter, Fanning said, is nice because “you can talk with her about things that you can’t talk about with a boy.”
Turning toward her mother, Jackie added, “There are just no words to describe how this feels. It’s like time never existed. I just feel like I’ve known you all my life.”
Posted with permission from Gulf Pine Catholic, official publication of the Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi.
Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Religious freedom advocates throughout the country are voicing disappointment at suggested changes to the federal contraception mandate aimed at resolving freedom of conscience concerns.
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Duncan was one of numerous critics who raised concerns over a Feb. 1 announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department said that it intends to revise the mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and drugs that may cause early abortions.
The mandate – which is currently the subject of lawsuits filed by more than 100 plaintiffs nationwide – initially included a narrow exemption that applied only to non-profit religious groups that exist to inculcate religious beliefs and both serve and employ primarily members of their own faith.
The proposed revisions would drop those requirements, simplifying the definition of a “religious employer” to be any non-profit organization that fits into Internal Revenue Code, Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii), which “refers to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”
This “would primarily include churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations,” the administration said, giving the examples of parochial schools or soup kitchens run by a church or mosque.
Religious organizations that do not meet these qualifications would not be given an exemption. Instead, these non-profit groups would be given an “accommodation,” by which their employees will received the free contraception coverage “through separate individual health insurance policies” provided automatically by the organizations’ health insurance issuers.
In the case of self-insured organizations, a third-party administrator would work with a health insurance issuer to provide this coverage.
According to the federal government, this coverage can be provided free of charge because the “tremendous health benefits” of contraception will lower the overall health care costs for women using it.
The suggested changes, issued in an 80-page document, are complex and require additional analysis to determine their implication for specific organizations. However, legal experts initially expressed concern that the proposals do not fully address the religious liberty issues at stake.
“We’re doubtful that anyone who wasn’t already covered by the exemption would now be covered,” Duncan explained in a conference call. He added that “the administration has said itself that the [changes made to the exemption] won’t make any difference as to the scope” of the mandate.
“Having reviewed this proposal today,” he said, “we have to say we are deeply disappointed.”
“Today’s announcement is a veiled attempt by the Obama administration to silence us,” added Matt Smith, president of the Catholic Advocate.
“The religious entities able to ‘opt-out’ are still a minority of those affected,” he observed. “Our government should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to preserving our most cherished religious liberties.”
George Mason University law professor Helen Alvaré, explained that the expansion added to the exemption “is as small as the government could make it.”
Alvaré helped found “Women Speak for Themselves,” a diverse group of women who object to political figures claiming to speak on behalf of all women in promoting the mandate.
“These new regulations are very long and very convoluted and very intent on exempting the fewest folks possible,” she said in a statement.
In addition, Alvaré noted that the suggested changes would completely fail to protect non-religious organizations, individuals and for-profit businesses, adding that this fact is particularly “disturbing.”
“In America, the right of religious freedom extends to all,” she said.
Non-religious groups also objected to the announcement, arguing that the government’s solution failed to protect their freedom of conscience.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that promotes pro-life politicians, argued that the proposal unfairly excludes organizations that do not identify with a certain religion.
“(T)here must be no religious ‘test’ by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience,” she said in a statement. “We demand respect for non-religious entities such as the Susan B. Anthony List that recognize the taking of human life is the antithesis of health care.”
Many groups – including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – said they are awaiting a full legal analysis of the proposed changes before they comment.
“We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
San Francisco, Calif., Feb 2, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Brothers John and Jim Harbaugh, coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, have seen their fair share of sibling rivalry – but this weekend's Super Bowl should prove to be a contest like no other.
The last time the brothers squared off on the same field was Thanksgiving of 2011 where John led his Baltimore Ravens to a victory over Jim’s San Francisco 49ers, while at the same time putting an end to his eight-game winning streak.
The Harbaughs will face off on the same field again on Feb. 3 for Super Bowl XLVII. This time, they’ll make history as the only set of brothers coaching opposing teams in a championship game, not just in football, but in any major sports in the U.S.
Perhaps more necessary than skills and professional training will be the faith both brothers, who were born 15 months apart, learned from their parents, Jack and Jackie, in this game.
Fr. Edward Inyanwachi, pastor of St. Raymond Catholic Church in Menlo Park, Calif. described Jim and his wife Sarah as “active parishioners” and said the parish will “be rooting for him to win in this big game.”
“We are proud of the work he has done with the 49ers,” Fr. Inyanwachi told CNA Feb. 1, “but even more proud of his faith in Christ as what keeps him grounded in life.”
Jim, a father of six, spoke with CNA last summer about his work with Santisimo Sacramento, a Catholic sponsorship program to aid impoverished families in Peru.
During a trip to visit some of the charity’s recipients, he said, “I’ve always been struck by the attendance and the joy they have for Mass,” adding that the pews are filled with faithful at daily evening Masses.
“You can only describe that as the fruit of the Holy Spirit,” Jim said.
In an interview with Catholic Review, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s newspaper, John shared that he prays during games, not to win, but “for God to stay close to me.”
The Ravens coach and father of one said he strives to look out for his team as a shepherd would his flock to keep them, “moving in the right direction to get them to the pasture we want them to graze in.”
John, who is a parishioner at The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland, Md., also revived the long-dormant practice of organizing the Ravens’ Mass on game day.
“He’s very prayerful during Mass and very attentive to what I have to share in the homily,” Father Christopher Whatley, the team’s chaplain told the Catholic Review. “He’s there to gain some spiritual nourishment.”
Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s game, “...at the end of the day, it is still about family and feelings for one another,” Jackie Harbaugh said, ESPNW reported.