Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
Fresh from the overwhelming success of their Advent Adventure and Lenten Adventure program which drew 40,000 participants, Holy Heroes has come up with another adventure for kids called the “Holy Heroes Spiritual Adoption Program.”
Based on Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s simple daily “Spiritual Adoption Prayer” to the Holy Family for the safety of an unknown baby from conception to birth, the Spiritual Adoption program helps kids become Holy Heroes and teaches them about the wonder of life through the 40-week program that presents in simple ways how babies develop.
The first Spiritual Adoption program launched on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and ends nine months later on Feb. 2, 2016, the feast of the Presentation.
The newest one begins on Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and finishes on June 3, 2016, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the day the spiritually adopted baby is born.
“We start on a date that has spiritual significance and end on a date that has spiritual significance,” said Ken Davison, who with his wife Kerri, co-founded of Holy Heroes and developed this program.
The dates signal how the spiritual and physical intertwine in the babies’ development.
“Children will identify with babies because they’re close to having been that,” Ken Davison explained. “It reminds them how they grew. As they learn about the baby’s development, they can say, ‘That was me; that’s what I was like.’ We’re appealing to this closeness of children and their recognition they were a baby so that this all makes sense. We’re say that people were praying for you when you were a baby, and you pray for this baby.”
As the free program arrives every two weeks via email, children learn about the development of the baby in their mother’s womb through short, simple videos with the Holy Heroes Adventure Guides — the Davison’s younger children. The family’s eight children range from 8 to 22 years old.
These young guides share facts in ways children can understand, and include kids’ humor which has participants laughing a lot.
“Kids love other children explaining things to them,” Davison noted.
Activities include pray-along audio prayers and printable activities like a journal. Using it, children ask parents and grandparents what they were like in the womb. Simultaneously, the journal aspect awakens the parents, reminding them they developed this way too.
Davison explained, “It’s something you do as a family because it’s going to raise questions about you and your mom and dad.”
Everything needed, including the Bishop Sheen Prayer plus another prayer from St. John Paul II, is on the program’s website.
Praying for their adopted unborn baby who they get to name, the children learn how we’re all connected through prayer, even with those we’ll never meet.
At the same time, in simple ways, the adventures reference the New and Old Testaments, lessons from the Holy Family, the Catechism, and even about the joy at the birth of every baby from St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.
Davison said children get questions like, “Did any mom know she was pregnant from the beginning? Yes. The Blessed Virgin Mary knew before any other mom would know.” Parents can then go over the Annunciation.
Children learn each baby has a guardian angel from conception, and they learn to pray to their own guardian angel.
They hear God has planned from the beginning of time for each person through examples like God telling Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you (Jeremiah 1:5).”
“We tell them you are a unique person made for unique reason by God,” Davison said. “We want to make sure they get inspired to be open to the purpose God has for them.”
“All is woven in,” he said. “The important thing is little children recognize and understand this as an integrated whole.”
Parents Love It
Justin and Denise Mayrand have found the Holy Heroes programs, including Spiritual Adoption that began in May, are having quite an impact.
“Everything from the Holy Heroes website is just engaging for Noah. He loves every minute of it,” Denise Mayrand said. Their 8-year-old son, special needs with autism and high-functioning academically, was excited to begin another Holy Heroes adventure with the Spiritual Adoption program.
Mayrand described how as they kneel down to say their “regular nighttime prayers, pray for family members, their priest, and her brother who passed away,” Noah reminds them “don’t forget to pray the Spiritual Adoption prayer and pray for our baby every night. Noah reminded us from the very first night.”
Mayrand always told her son stories of his birth. “But ever since he’s been doing the journaling, he has asked me over and over again, tell me story of how I was born earlier,” she said.
“With his needs these things are touching him in a special way. My husband is so impressed with how much Noah is into this. He appreciates the difference in the last weeks.”
She passes along the website to everyone because “It’s so powerful watching God move through Noah with Holy Heroes,’ she said.
Ted and Sarah Bauer’s five children, the oldest 11, love the Spiritual Adoption program. Even the 2-year-old joins with the family in watching the videos and saying the spiritual adoption prayer.
The Holy Heroes adventures “have been so good for my husband and I guiding and helping us to teach our kids the Catholic faith,” Sarah said. “It’s very easy on the parents. Really no preparation work at all. And it’s very engaging for the kids.”
She finds the short videos and links educational as children see how a baby develops. She has a nursing degree, yet “they know more about babies’ development than I knew back in high school,” she said.
The family says the adoption prayer every morning after grace. A chorus of babies’ names ring out at the right spot in it.
The Bauers see big benefits. “It keeps the kids more aware you can pray for babies you don’t know,” Sarah said. “They learn they may not meet here on earth, but one day in heaven they will meet these babies, and how exciting they will be.”
She shared a second benefit. “We’re also expecting. Our baby is about six weeks behind the adopted baby, so watching Spiritual Adoption babies we go back and see where in development our baby is.”
Ted Bauer pointed out this is an easy way for the children to relate to some more difficult things we’re facing in this world. “The Spiritual Adoption program gives us a good way to broach that subject and have it be a part of the kids’ lives. It’s amazing to see them each night pray for babies in danger of something bad happening. The prayers of little ones are certainly heard.”
Children Love It
When Noah Mayrand learned he could name his adopted baby, his mother related how he immediately named his baby Johnson. “I was impressed,” she said, “because he doesn’t think of names instantly.”
Because screen time is limited, Noah saves up time to watch the Spiritual Adoption videos repeatedly. He loves to laugh at the jokes too.
In the Bauer household, 9-year-old Nicholas named the twins he’s praying for Mary and Joseph, while 7-year-old Mary Kate named her adopted baby Catherine after St. Catherine of Laboure because of the Miraculous Medal.
“I think about the baby a lot,” she said, mindful of the baby’s guardian angel and hopes “her parents and godparents are good.” Mary Kate likes the guides with one about her age.
“I especially like that they taught us different things and how big the baby gets every week and is getting bigger over time,” said 11-year-old Johnny. For instance, at week nine it was the size of a bell pepper. All this is brought out “through a video which is kind of neat.”
He named his adopted baby Philomena after St. Philomena, “the 13-year-old who was a martyr,” Johnny noted. His overall assessment? “It’s the coolest thing ever.”
Five-year-old Thérèse named her baby Rose. “”It’s a symbol of St. Thérèse because she always carries roses around,” she explained. She likes to learn how big her adopted baby is getting with comparisons to things like the size of that bell pepper that begins for fun with a cute misunderstanding of “peppering a bell.”
“It was funny,” laughed Thérèse.
Program Takes Off
The Davisons hear from parents including those whose children have developmental disabilities praising the program, plus schools and classrooms now adopting this latest free adventure.
Everybody starts by registering at HolyHeroesSpiritualAdoption.com for the program beginning Sept. 8. They can even register after that date and catch up.
Davison finds yet another reason for this adventure. “We have to enlist everybody in this battle against the culture of death. We have to do something because the children need a firm foundation in reality without shocking them with the horrors of the culture of death. Let’s give them the joy of life. Everything at Spiritual Adoption is joyful.”