Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
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BY Matthew Archbold
This is one of those stories that'll make you feel good about humanity. So if you don't want to restore your faith in your fellow man you should stop reading now.
Fr. Thomas Vander Woude of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Va was talking to a few people who knew a couple who were planning to abort their unborn child because the child had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Fr. Vander Woude told me he did something he’d never thought of before. He responded by getting a promise from the couple that if he could find a family that would adopt their child they would allow the child to live. But he had a very small window to act. The mother was quickly approaching the last days she could legally procure an abortion. He was told plainly that if he couldn’t find adoptive parents, they would abort. He didn’t know what to do next. So he did all he could do. He prayed. And then he had an email sent out to a small homeschooling group and he posted his plea on Facebook on Sunday night, saying that a child diagnosed with Down Syndrome needs parents.
He did this without knowing what the response might be. He did this without knowing there would even be a response. “I figured I would just put it out there and see,” he told me. “I was clueless as to what would happen next.”
The following morning Fr. Vander Woude said morning Mass and then he walked into the rectory. When he walked in, the three ladies who work in the office were all answering phones.
Martha Drennan, Director of Adult Faith Formation and Liturgy at Holy Trinity hadn’t even known about the posting. "I came into the office Monday morning and the phones were ringing off the hook," she told me. "Hundreds of people were calling in."
And as the morning went on, the call load became so heavy that Martha had to bring in some help. A young seminarian spending the summer in the parish was pulled in to the office to help man the phones. "I don't think anyone could have expected that the response would be so quick and so much," she said, still sounding bewildered.
But what didn’t surprise her was that there are people out there who respect life, who are willing to open their hearts and their lives to children, no matter the diagnosis.
Martha has long understood the special contribution that special needs people offer. "My brother was a special needs child," she said.
He's grown up now she told me, adding that there are people out there who still question his value to society. She said they ask what does he contribute to society? What is his output?
“But that’s not how you measure a life," she said. "He has brought a lot of love into the world.”
“Every child is a child of God,” she said. “Every life has dignity."
Martha said that if you added up all the emails in Fr. Vander Woude's account and all the phone calls it'd likely be over a thousand couples willing to adopt the child. She said the young seminarian was bowled over by how many people were so open to the idea of radically changing their lives in order to love a child. And this outpouring of love saved a child. The couple is considering three of the families right now.
I asked Fr. Vander Woude how he felt about this amazing turn of events. His answer surprised me. “Honestly, I kick myself for not having done something like this sooner,” he said.
“But I think the thing to focus on is it shows that we are all God’s instruments," he said. "And it really shows the goodness of people, doesn’t it?"
Yes. It does.
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