Tag Archives: Adoption

The First Baby “Snowman”

December 18, 2012

1 Comment

Saints Peter and Paul Church in Rustenfelde, Germany

A mother’s selfless love

(Based on information from a German newspaper article. This is how I envisioned the story happening…)

Large snowflakes planted themselves like kisses on the bundle a mother held in her arms. It was a hard winter that year of 1726 in Rustenfelde, Thuringen of central Germany. The mother was thankful she had swaddled her infant in a woolen blanket.

The woman willed her feet forward as she ambled along the cobblestones. The snow lay twinkling like Stern on the ground and was starting to accumulate, so she tread carefully. Her destination was the Catholic Kirche in the middle of the town. It was named after two strong disciples: Saints Peter and Paul, and she yearned for some of their strength at that moment. When the mother came to a large, stone wall she knew she was almost there. She pressed the child closer to her chest and trudged forward. Wiping a tear from her eye, she whispered to the sleeping babe, “I love you, mein Leibling. That is why I am doing this.”

Perched high on the church grounds, the young Mutter paused to take in the view and bide more time. The timber-framed homes in the village were constructed from wattle and daub and were topped with thatched roofs. Candles glowing in the windows gave a sense of warmth to the scene. Tufts of smoke rising from the chimnyes created a feeling of hominess, for which the mother craved. The farmlands and woodlands beyond were beautiful even at dusk. To her right, at the outskirts of town, she saw a deer family foraging in the wheat field near the treeline. On the distant mound, the castle called Rusteberg loomed like a protective fortress. This was where counts and knight crusaders often lived during the past 500 years. Hanstein Castle, granted to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1209, still sat atop the hill above the Werra River. “It will be a safe place,” she whispered to the baby.

The mother turned to face the impressive Kirche. All was calm, all was bright–except for her heart. Votives were lit witinin, near the altar. Seeing them pacified the mother.

Someone hustled on the road below. The woman lowered her head and put her cheek to the baby’s. When the man had passed them, she made sure nobody was around to see what she had to do out of love for her little Leibling. After one last embrace the mother tenderly placed the baby on the front step of Saints Peter and Paul and then knocked on the wooden door. Fleeing to an enclave nearby, she watched from the shadows.  She felt like Miriam must have while serving as sentinel to the baby Moses adrift in his basket until his adoptive mother found him.

The young  Mutter whispered to the Blessed Mother: “You were alone and frightened, too, weren’t you Mary? Will you wrap your shielding mantel around my baby and safeguard him, bitte? Just like you did the Christkindl?”  The door was opened by a holy man. A light from inside the church poured onto the stoop illuminating the wrapped gift. An expression of surprise and joy crossed the priest’s face as he looked down. Bending, he picked up the Bundel; the child fit perfectly into the crook of his arm. He hastened outside and spent a moment looking around, but he didn’t see anyone. With his right hand, the man dusted away the white fluffs of Schnee which had collected upon the swaddling. The woman saw a smile on the priest’s face before he closed the door.

Geh mit Gott, meine Engel,” the birthmother said from the shadows. “Go with God, my angel.”

The foundling is named

The priest brought the baby into the sanctuary of the church and unwrapped das Bundel. The infant was no bigger than a doll. He awoke, displaying luminous blue eyes for just a brief moment.  Das kleiner Junge licked his lips and mewled. The man comforted the child and told him not to cry: “Hab keine Angst.”

There arose the question as to what he should call the baby boy. The holy man must have had a sense of humor, so he gave him a name that recalled how the child was covered with white Schnee on the church’s doorstep.

The priest decided to name the baby Schneemann (the surname of my husband’s family). We are told it is not a usual name in Germany–just as you wouldn’t find ‘Snowman’ used as a surname in this country.

Baby Schneemann is adopted

Eventually, the babe was adopted, but we do not know by whom. Perhaps the priest himself took the child in, or maybe he was raised by a couple living in the area of Rustenfelde. All we know is that he was christened Ambrosius Schneemann. He may have possibly been named after the 4th-century theologian and doctor of the Church, St. Ambrose. The name is Latin, taken from the Greek word “ambrosia” which is known as the food of the gods. It also has other meanings: “immortal,” “undying,” or “divine.” Maybe the child’s Christain name was chosen because the name-giver was challenged, as my husband and I were, by the question: What works with the last name ‘Schneeman’?

This baby was indeed created–as all babies are– from the breath of God. They are a blessings bestowed to mortals. Likewise, Ambrosius Schneemann’s birthmother was accessing God’s grace when she chose for her baby the gift of life. And wasn’t the newborn blessed because she did so? She could have left him in an unsafe place like the Werra River, a dark alley, a trash heap, the woods, or one of the nearby culverts, canals, channels or wells. But the desparate Mutti made two unselfish decisions: She willed her baby to live even though he was born in some sort of crisis, and she allowed another woman to call him “meine Sohn” through the gift of adoption.  For he truly was a “treasure.”

And the first Baby Schneemann bestowed a gift to the world, too–which was his undying lineage.

“Baby Boxes”

All babies–planned and unplanned–are gifts, and deserve to live. Throughout Germany today, there are nearly 100 warm incubators built into hospital walls. They serve as “safe places” for mothers to leave children whom they wish to place anonymously for adoption. These “baby boxes” receive considerable public support because they save little ones from infanticide.

“They are a revival of the medieval ‘foundling wheels,’ where infants were left in revolving church doors. In recent years, there has been an increase in these contraptions –also called hatches, windows, or slots in some countries–and at least 11 European nations now have them [Germany has by far the most--Poland and The Czech Republic are next, and they have more than 40], according to United Nations figures.” (Associated Press, December of 2012)

Sadly, some human rights advocates think these boxes are  bad for the children. That they avoid dealing with the problems that led the baby to be abandoned. But how, pray tell, can saving the life of the baby be a negative thing? Hundreds of babies in Europe have been placed in these boxes in the last 10 years. It is estimated that one or two infants are placed in each “safe place” every year.

According to the Associated Press article, Germany’s Health Ministry is considering other options. “We want to replace the necessity for the baby boxes by implementing a rule to allow women to give birth anonymously that will allow them to [place their] child for adoption,” said Christopher Steegmans for the ministry. (This sounds like our Safe Place for Newborns campaigne here in the States.)

Schneemann Baby’s ripples

In the summer of 1947, a couple named Wilma and Kurt Schneemann of Köln, Germany were married. A family tree fell into their hands. The newlyweds did some research in Rustenfelde and found the story of the Schneemann family beginnings in the church records there. “This child is the forefather of all Schneemanns” wrote a joyful relative to our cousin back in 1999 at Christmastime.

Ambrosius Schneemann obviously had had at least one child, and that child went on to produce more offspring. And so on, and so on, and so on. I like to think that Ambrosius’  birthmother continued to watch him from a distance. Maybe she also witnessed her grandchildren thriving. Today, many descendants are living in America, and the name was Americanized to ‘Schneeman.’ She’d be happy to know there are successful artists, musicians, students, architects, business managers, doctors, nurses, military leaders, teachers and lawyers, to name a few. One descendant went to Germany to play professional football in 2012, and some kin have returned as tourists; unable to resist the pull of their heritage.

Today, Rustenfelde has a population of about 500. Two Schneemanns sit on the city council under the Bürgermeister Ulrich Hesse.

What a ripple (er, snowball?) effect  one baby–and one choice–can make in this Odyssey called Life.  If we are open to God’s gifts, even during the Schneesturms (snowstorms) of our journey, He will give us so many graces in return.

Fröhliche Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

(Danke to my Mutti, Cecelia MacDonald, for editing this blog. She also corrected my German and taught me that ALL nouns in the German language are capitalized. And a big Danke to the birthmother of that first Schneemann baby!)

Hanstein Castle in the 1600s

Hanstein Castle in the 1600s

 

 

 

Continue reading...

Famous people who were adopted

November 19, 2012

2 Comments


Licensed under Creative Commons by Paul Stein

When it is the birthday of my friends and family members who are adopted, I make sure to tell them, “I’m so glad you were born!” Not every child is given the chance to live. Thankfully, some women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy do allow their babies to exist in God’s creation.  Perhaps they have turned their backs on abortion. Maybe they made an unselfish decision years later, that their child would fare better if placed with other parents through adoption. And how glorious it is when couples open their homes to children in need of a family.

Imagine the babies who were not allowed to live. Imagine all the little ones, across the world, awaiting a new home. (Click here for information on international adoption.)

My friend Tina and her husband Dave adopted a 9-year-old from Ethiopia two years ago. Eli has blessed them in numerous ways, and they have been a blessing to him. Below is a humerous conversation they had about Thanksgiving, which is a new experience for him:

Tina: Sadly, the longer Eli is with us, the less I will have these conversations…but it’s not over yet!

Eli: So is beef made from turkey?
Tina: What? (chuckling) No honey, beef is from cows.
Eli: Why do they call it beef turkey then?
Tina: It’s beef JERKY, not turkey! (ok I had to laugh)

November is the month to celebrate the gift of adoption. Did you know the people in this video were adopted?

YouTube Preview Image
Continue reading...

Want to go to a great movie? See ‘October Baby’

March 5, 2012

0 Comments

This is what Relevant Radio has to say about the film: 

October Baby is a coming of age story of Hannah, a beautiful 19 year old college freshman. In spite of her energetic (if somewhat naïve) personality, Hannah has always felt like an outsider. Something is missing. She has always carried a deep seeded sense that she has no right to exist.

When she discovers she was adopted it comes as a shock, but Hannah’s world is rocked even more when she learns why she was never told before – because she was the survivor of a failed abortion. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a road trip with some friends (including her oldest and closest friend Jason) to find her biological mother. In the process she unexpectedly discovers hope, love and forgiveness.

This uplifting and beautiful film may change the way you look at the world, your loved ones… and life.

Rating:PG-13

Release Date: March 23, 2012

YouTube Preview Image
Continue reading...

Vern Schultz has saved glimpses of St. Paul back in the day

November 15, 2011

0 Comments

If you’d enjoy a trip down memory lane through St. Paul 60-70-80 years ago, you might look for Vern Schultz’s “Memoirs of a Left Hander” (Amazon.com).

The self-published book about growing up in the Frogtown neighborhood preserves some history worth saving about the 1940s and ‘50s.

Schultz, who lives in Prior Lake now, taught at St. Agnes High School in the early 1950s, and for many years officiated sports, including in the Catholic Athletic Association.

Catholic to the core, Schultz recalls both highlights and low-lights of Catholic life in those pre-Vatican II days. In more recent times, room in the Schultz home was rented to the pastor of St. Michael Church in Prior Lake!

No abortion for them

Schultz’s faith pours through when he writes about how he and his wife Toodie reacted when, after a genetic disorder took the lives of their first two children and a doctor recommended she have an abortion when they found themselves expecting again.

There is their gratitude, too, when Catholic Charities came to their rescue to help them adopt the family they so wanted.

Writing a memoir is no easy task, of course, and while the middle years of Schultz’s life get short shrift, that weakness doesn’t detract from the very pleasurable reading of his earlier years. Those are great memories of a time and place that need to be remembered and cherished, a Schultz has a nice writing touch.

Allow me, though, to offer advice for others putting down their life history: Get a proofreader. My teeth grind when I read “to” where “too” is required and “complemented” when “complimented” is the proper word. — bz

Continue reading...

Adoption…The Greatest Act of Love

August 2, 2011

5 Comments

Photo courtesy of photobucket.com

Cesili’s Story

“I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant… and I was petrified!” Recalls Cesili when discussing the heroic journey she began for her son about six years ago. “I was very scared not knowing what my family would say, and I felt alone and lost.” The teen eventually talked to her family–and plans for adoption started to unfold.

“Parents make sacrifices. My sacrifice was to put my feelings aside and do what was best for the baby–to put the child first!”

And what about the birth father? “We wanted what was best for our son and that meant making the sacrifice of placing him for adoption.” Cesili says with a loving smile.

Eventually, Cesili and her family knew it was time to search for an adoption agency, and they were hoping to place the baby with a Catholic couple. Unsure of where to turn, Cesili’s mom glanced at a Pro-life Across America magnet on their refrigerator. She decided to call the number listed on the advertisement. She talked to the director of “The Billboard People,” Mary Ann Kuharski, who gave them the information they desired, delivered with the motherly warmth for which she is known.

Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency

Wanting to reach out to women who are feeling desperate and to make adoption available to Catholic families, Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency acquired their license ten years ago, and they have placed 20 babies in loving homes. Five of these infants were placed with Holy Family because the birth mothers were in contact with the Sisters for Life in New York City.

A few weeks ago, I met with Mary Ball, the director of the agency, in her office in the former convent at St. Agnes.

I couldn’t help but notice the tranquil paintings of the Madonna and Child adorning the walls of this tidy space, as she explained how they carry out their mission.

“When a birth mother decides that she can’t properly parent, adoption can bring her peace and joy,” she said.  But because it is such a momentous decision, the agency is careful not to present the adoption option as the ‘preferred’ choice for every birth mother.

“We let each woman know that she has every right to parent. We’re here to give her detailed information about adoption–and to support her. God will help her if she chooses to parent — and we will help her with the placement process if adoption is her decision. “  

Mary added in her caring, gentle voice:

“When I see these birth mothers and adopting parents hugging and crying, it gives me such joy to witness this greatest act of love!”

When Cesili went to Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency with her parents, she found it very comforting–and she appreciated that Mary Ball and the people there were non-judgmental. “They put me at ease,” she said. “With my decision of placing my child, I felt great comfort and joy!”

The Adoption Process

Cesili states on http://www.holyfamilyadoption.org:

“I viewed profiles and found a family that seemed perfect! It was like they were heaven-sent. The baby even has a great older sister. It’s comforting knowing that he is at their place.”

Instead of requesting the normal adoption fees, the agency asks the following of the couples who are hoping to adopt:

1) To commit to an hour of adoration in front of the blessed sacrament

2) To reach out to those who are pregnant and see if they need any help

Currently, Holy Family has 10-12 couples waiting with high hopes to be blessed with a little bundle.  Most of these are couples who have been ‘fired in the furnace’ of infertility and have had to reshape their lifelong dreams.  Their journey has brought them here to WAIT with unbelievable patience and trust in Divine Providence.   

Unconditional Love

Cesili put her unborn child’s needs and happiness above her own. “He’ll know I wanted nothing but the best for him; that’s unconditional love–being unselfish.” She admits that saying goodbye to him was hard, but joyous.

“Seeing the look on the adoptive parents’ faces was priceless. It was complete joy!”

The baby Cesili gave birth to is now about five years old. Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency gives her pictures and updates regularly. “It’s comforting knowing he has a great family! He’s very lucky!”

I’ll say he is!  

Cesili and other birth parents are my heroes. By their sacrificial acts of love, they embrace life and assist God in a remarkable way: They help create families.

(For adoption information please call Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency at 651-298-0133 and talk to Mary Ball. You’ll like her–She’s an angel!)

Continue reading...