We set out on a journey 6 1/2 years ago. It wasn't something we took lightly, on the contrary... we prayed, talked, agonized, poured through pamphlets, websites... we so desperately wanted to be parents, we felt the Lord calling us to this life! As an infertile couple, the road to parenthood wasn't a typical story. Our loving embrace along with the Creator did not bring forth our children. Yes, the Creator was there... but we weren't there in that moment (three times over).
This is something that my brain has been trying to comprehend for a while now... history, my family, my ethnicity... their history, family, and ethnicity... and that those are not completely shared like 'normal families'. How do we make it all work?
One thing that our adoption agency really wanted to make sure we did when choosing to adopt trans-racially was to make sure we exposed our children to their full ethnicity... Many ideas where thrown about as to how to do this: living in a diverse community, attending a more heavily African American church/school/barber shop... and so on. All great ideas, on paper, as the saying goes! We already had a home, so moving really wasn't a viable option (although I would have to say that our street is pretty diverse just by happen stance), we attend the church that is in our parish, and I cut the boys hair at home (the cost of getting three sets of hair cuts every 4 weeks... you do the math!). Plus the boys were so young, and bi-racial, that up until recently we really didn't feel the need to do more than what we have. We have friends of varying races, it's just that the adults aren't black (one of the adoption groups is a trans-racial group, so they are around other kids who look like them and are adopted... double points, right?).
Well... that brings us to now... 6 1/2 years into this journey of raising our sons with a rooted identity, and an understanding as to where they came from! We knew the time would come when it would be important to investigate a community that was more African American... to surround them with children and adults who shared that part of their duel race. Daddio and I, over the years, had put together some thoughts... ideas... but it wasn't until the last few weeks that my mother's heart said it was time. I had already started noticing signs that one of our boys had become increasingly sensitive about himself... it was time to climb out on to the newest branch of the tree we planted so many years ago!
Many years ago we saw a show, I think it was called Divine Renovation (or something), where they went into a church in our diocese and re-did the baptismal font. It just so happened that it was a predominantly African American parish (trust me the Holy Spirit knows what he's doing!). Over the years when Daddio and I've discussed where we might go, this church would come up. Then a few weeks (months maybe even) our diocese newspaper had an article about the Bishop saying mass at that particular parish in honor of their anniversary... again Daddio and I made a mental note!
Two weeks ago at dinner, I brought up my concerns to Daddio about our son... and we decided that it was time to take the next step in the journey. We were out of town the following weekend, but agreed that within the next few weeks we should make good on the conversation and attend this church.
Sunday morning, when I'm in an allergy fog, Daddio tells me that we needed to get moving in order to attend the 10am Mass at Our Mother of Mercy... WHAT? I hadn't had time to prepare, psych myself up, freak out, panic, calm down... all the things I need to go through before I do ANYTHING NEW! In all honesty, the element of surprise generally is better for me than anything else because of the aforementioned litany!
It was a fairly quiet car ride (20 miles from our home). I was nervous! I realize that might sound silly to some, but I was worried how we might be perceived. Would we be welcomed? Would the stares be too much... I mean we are used to staring, but there is staring, and then there is STARING! How much would Daddio and I stand out? How would the boys react to what we might see and hear? Would the Mass be familiar or uncomfortable? Would the priest be approachable?
As we drove into the parking lot, one of the boys immediately noticed the Mary and Jesus statue that were black. "They look like us, and not you, " I believe was the statement (or there about). There was definitely a twinkle in their eyes as we approached the front doors. A few people were chatting out in front, and eagerly offered a handshake and a welcome. Once inside several people introduced themselves and an overwhelming since of love and familial connection enveloped us. Alright... things were going well so far! We had about 5 minutes till Mass was to start, so the five of us sat down and took in the cute little church. Our parish is huge... no HUGE!!!! This was tiny in comparison, but it was really nice. Recently renovated, it had old charm... but new pews and the most comfortable kneelers (and having a really painful knee, it was much appreciated).
What we didn't know about this particular Mass was that it was, for lack of a better term, the Gospel Mass... and that it would last 2 1/2 hours... I would have worn much more sensible shoes had I known that!!!! It was a LOT to take in for the first time. I should note here that both Daddio and I spent most of our childhood attending a rather charismatic Catholic Church, but OMM was much more... and the boys had never been to a Mass that resembled anything like this... many times I looked down at them and there was a since of overload/overwhelmed staring back at me from their eyes. Well, all but Snooker... he was in his element apparently! At one point during the homily the priest walked over and point blank asked him "who are our enemies", his reply "friends who become our enemy"... which turns out to be the TRUTH... check Sirach 6: 5-10... that was exactly what the priest was looking for (by the way, I've always known that Snooker was special... I just didn't know he could quote scripture so well!). And while our sweet Snooker can't clap on beat to save his life, that certainly didn't stop him from trying with every song that was played (and there were many).
After Mass, we headed out for lunch... and had time to digest the morning. So here are some conclusions we made and are continuing to glean from this experience:
It was a positive experience. Everyone was more than welcoming. Bobcat even said that is was almost like they already knew us... referring to the boys in particular as "little brother". With it begin such a small parish, there is a real opportunity to actually get to know people. Although the charismatic nature is not my all time favorite, I never felt out of place not having my hands held high or not knowing the words to all of the songs. While Daddio and I are white, that seemed to be the only real difference...
And the overwhelming conclusion... we want to be a part of this parish. We think it will be a great opportunity for our boys especially... but there is so much there for Daddio and me, too! Application wise, we will probably split our time between our home parish and OMM, but will look for opportunities be involved that go beyond Sunday Mass.
As parents, we will do whatever we need to for our children. We felt the Lord calling us out, calling for us to stretch ourselves for their sake... I knew He would catch us, should we fall... thankfully all we needed was a steady hand as we stepped out.
A link or two: