By Dr. Robert Ehnow
I am a “cradle Catholic.” A loving family adopted me more than 50 years ago. My parents raised my brother and me in the Catholic faith, and they set a wonderful example for us of active participation and devotion in our Church. I was also fortunate to attend Catholic schools for the entirety of my education, including undergraduate and graduate Catholic universities.
I often say that I am a “cradle Catholic” because it was the Church’s response through Catholic Charities of Wilmington, Del., that offered a choice for my birth mother to provide me with an opportunity for a flourishing life that she could not give me because of her young age.
Two years ago, my wife gave me the DNA kit 23andMe for my birthday. That simple test led to the most extraordinary gift I could ever have imagined – the reunion with my birth mother!
In May, we celebrate motherhood and, in our Catholic tradition, we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the month.
My birth mom, Lucy, was a young Catholic woman when I was conceived. She made a courageous decision to keep me alive and well in her womb, and then put me up for adoption.
My mom, Elizabeth, received the gift of “me” from Lucy, although they never knew anything about each other at the time. Adoptions in the 1960’s were closed affairs with little information provided to either the birth parents or the adoptive parents about each other. I learned that I spent less than one hour with my birth mother before I was placed in an orphanage and a few months later adopted by my family.
Elizabeth remains my hero, and she continues to provide me with unconditional love, patience and understanding that only a mom can give. Elizabeth and my dad, Richard, live with my wife and me, and my mom remains the light in our household.
When I connected with my birth mom, there was not a hint of jealousy or concern from my mom. She simply said she wanted to speak with Lucy to thank her for the gift that she provided her — that would be me. Wow, that’s my mom!
Lucy and Elizabeth have talked on the phone, and both have thanked each other for what they both did for me. Lucy gave me life, and she continued to pray for me. On my 20th birthday, she wrote me a letter that was included in my adoption files and gave permission to contact her if I chose to do so.
When I requested my adoption files 33 years after Lucy wrote that letter to me, I discovered that I had a birth mother who never stopped loving and praying for me. She wondered if I had a good life – and thanks to her decision and the love from my parents, I did!
I have been given the most important gifts from two beautiful women – the gift of life from Lucy and the gift of unconditional love from Elizabeth. I have two moms whom I love very much.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, through the Holy Spirit, conceived and bore Him into our world. Mary remains the epitome of unconditional love and sacrifice for her Son and for all of us. Mary, pregnant with Jesus as a young woman, chose to trust God and we all received the gift of Jesus.
We, as Catholics, often call on our Mother Mary through prayer and intercession to assist us and guide us. We know that a mom knows a son like no other person. We all have Mary as another mom — the mother of Jesus.
I am so lucky to have two earthly women who love me and provide so much for me. And we all have at least two moms — our earthly mom who bore us, and our heavenly mom, Mary the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore the Savior of our world!
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of death. Amen.”
Dr. Robert Ehnow is director of the diocesan Office for Life, Peace and Justice.