Salina — As infants squeaked and children shuffled, Bishop Jerry Vincke began his homily at the Inaugural Adoption Celebration Mass. “Raise your hands if you have adopted children,” he said. “What about any grand parents of adopted children? Anyone here who has given up their child for adoption? Raise your hand if you are adopted.” Hands raised and lowered around Sacred Heart Cathedral around the crowd of more than 125.
About half way back, Patrick and Rachel Haberman of Brookville passed their 9-month-old son, Isaac back and forth, taking turns feeding and cuddling their son. The Habermans are the most recent couple to adopt from Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas, with headquarters in Salina. They found out about three years ago they would be unable to have biological children, and turned to adoption. The process was often rocky. “We signed up with an attorney in (out of town) who does adoptions, in addition to being on the list at Catholic Charities,” Rachel said. “We had a match that failed miserably (with the attorney).” The couple decided to take a vacation, clear their heads and regroup. During that time, they decided to return all of the baby items they previously procured because having baby items around the house for a baby that would not arrive was too difficult, she said. “It was literally two hours after we got back we got the phone call,” Rachel said. “Isaac was born the next day.” She and her husband have an open adoption with Isaac’s parents. “I send his birth mom pictures all the times, a couple times a week and we see his birth dad we see regularly,” she said. “I’m so glad our adoption happened through Catholic Charities. They helped the mom get the resources she needs. “I feel only love and gratitude toward his mom. She didn’t ask us for anything and she still cares very much about us.” The date of the Mass was a special one — it was on that day two years ago that she and Patrick completed all of their paperwork to finally be on the waiting list at Catholic Charities. “Adoption is such a crazy journey,” Haberman said. “It was beautiful to be around people that have had any kind of experience with adoption. It’s such an exclusive club. People who are not in it can never understand. It’s pretty emotional to be around people who have an idea of the beautifulness, the stress, the scariness of it.”
While the Haberman family was the newest adoption from Catholic Charities in Salina, Velma Giebler paused during the reception after Mass to talk about adopting her daughter, Mary Beth Braun. Giebler and her late husband, Francis, were the 36th couple to adopt through Catholic Charities. “We heard about Catholic Charities. At that time they were not licensed with the state when we first started working with them,” Giebler said. Catholic Charities formally incorporated on Jan. 29, 1959. One of the primary objectives was to provide care for children in the orphanage and provide adoptive services. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia continued to assist Catholic Charities, and acted as case workers for the children. “They told us it’d probably take about two years from the time we started,” Giebler said. “They felt sure by the time our adoption was complete that they would be licensed with the state.” By the time they adopted their daughter, Catholic Charities was fully licensed. The fact that November is celebrated as Adoption Awareness Month was news to Braun, who grew up in Hays with her parents. She said her parents always were open about adopting her. “For me it didn’t make a difference if I was adopted or not,” she said. “I was never treated any different because I was adopted.” She said she always thought of herself as having two sets of parents. “I had it better than most,” she said. “I had two mommies and daddies. One loved me enough to give me up, and the other took me because they wanted me.” Braun said she never knew which hospital she was born in, and it didn’t matter. Her mom would always tell her the “Salina story” of how they picked her up. “They stopped to get me in Salina,” she said. “And then they stopped in Victoria to see one set of grandparents, and stopped in Hays to see the other, and then they brought me home.”
Nationally, November is celebrated as Adoption Awareness Month. The Mass was initiated by Catholic Charities of Northern Kansas because of the organization’s roots with adoption, said Executive Director Michelle Martin. “It is important to remember how much adoption impacts those around us and to honor the work we do to establish open connections and lifelong families,” she said. “It was so rewarding to be able to honor adoption and celebrate these wonderful families. I was so moved by their gratitude.” The Mass was celebrated Nov. 30, on the feast of St. Andrew the apostle. “He was the brother of St. Peter, and of course St. Peter gets a lot of attention. After all, he’s the first pope,” Bishop Vincke said. “But we find that it’s actually Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus.”
The bishop pointed out adoption is scriptural, beginning with the adoption of Moses in the Old Testament. “He led the people out of slavery,” Bishop Vincke said. “One could even say in a sense that Jesus is Joseph’s adopted son.” He highlighted Pope Francis’ reflections on adoption, including that adoptive parents are — in the pope’s words — “channels of God’s love in the world.” "Like St. Andrew, you brought your loved one to Jesus, especially through the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist,” Bishop Vincke said.
Those honored at the Mass included adoptive grandparents, including Phyllis and Vernon Dolezal from Kanopolis. “We have 18 grandkids and two of them are adopted,” Phyllis Dolezal said. “They don’t seem like adopted kids to us. From day one, they’ve been grandkids.” She said she appreciated the special Mass to celebrate the gift of adoption. “I felt it was very meaningful when the bishop was trying to find out why everyone was there,” she said of the introduction to Bishop Vincke’s homily when he inquired about everyone’s ties to adoption.
Clara (Martin) Hilger attended the Mass with her son, Isaac Martin. She and her late husband, Michael, adopted Isaac from India.
“Isaac was born Sept. 15, 2001 and the visas that were taking 3 weeks prior to 9/11 were now taking three months or longer,” Hilger said. They had a six-month wait to allow any family in India the opportunity to adopt Isaac. Once that period was over, they were free to take him home. Yet the 9/11 terrorist attacks created difficulty with delivering children from India to the United States.
“Our adoption coordinator said ‘If one of you has a passport and want to travel, he is yours by Indian standards,’ ” she said. One meaningful aspect of the Mass for Hilger was Bishop Vincke’s homily. “What’s more important in the spiritual sense is that we all through our Baptism become adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly father,” Bishop Vincke said during his homily. “When we are baptized, God looks upon us just the same way as he looks upon Jesus, his son.”
When the bishop queried the audience: “Raise your hand if you are adopted,” four enthusiastic hands surrounding Glenda Schreiber immediately shot into the air. Her adopted children, ages 8, 8, 9 and 14 all grinned. Like Moeller, Schreiber fostered, then adopted multiple children. She estimates she and her husband, Michael, have fostered more than 80 children in their Concordia home over the course of 12 years. She said one aspect of her adoption journey that was surprising is the negativity often associated with children in foster care. “People pre-judge the children and think ‘There must be something wrong with the kid if they are in the foster care system,’ ” Schreiber said. “Sometimes, people can’t help preconceived notions and sometimes they don’t even know they’re doing it. They will judge the foster kids on another plane from the other kids. “There’s nothing wrong with foster children. All children need love and guidance. That’s our job.” She and Michael were married later in life, and inadvertently stumbled into life as foster parents. They have adopted four children and are in the process of adopting No. 5. “We never planned to do this,” Schreiber said. “It’s surprising … the fun and joy we have from the children.”
Michelle and Wes Bowen, who live in Manhattan, adopted their sons, Bennett, who turns two in December, and Brooks, 4, via Catholic Charities. “Our sweet little boys is the biggest blessings through all of this. They are wonderful, wonderful, sweet little boys,” Michelle Bowen said. As “Cradle Catholics,” the Bowens opted to utilize Catholic Charities when their path led them to adoption. “We like the support CC provides to birth parents. That was important to us,” she said. One surprising aspect was how different each adoption was. “I felt like once we went through it with Brooks, we would know what would happen,” Bowen said. “With Bennett, nothing happened the same as with Brooks.” The relationship with the birth families differs as well. “We’re in pretty open contact,” she said of one set of birth parents. “We stay in touch through text message. For example, I will snap a picture of him in his Halloween costume and send it to her. We also try to see each other once a year.” The Mass with Bishop Vincke was special. “I thought it was a really good idea, especially involving everyone who has been affected by adoption some way,” Bowen said.
Bishop Vincke shared his experience with adoption through the course of his homily. An aunt and uncle adopted their two children.
“She talked about how incredibly painful it was for her not to have children,” he said of his aunt, who spoke more in-depth about their adoption journey following her husband’s death. “She even mentioned how much she resented God for a long, long time for not being able to conceive. “But then, in the end, she talked about how much she loved her children … her adopted children. She wouldn’t have it any other way.” Martin said the event was positively received, and plans are in the works for another Mass to honor those whose lives are impacted by adoption. The next Mass will be Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. Additional details are still in the planning stages. “Adopting any child is a walk into the unknown and it takes a great deal of faith,” Bishop Vincke said.