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Richly blessed by family and faith

It was Thanksgiving, 1965. A young couple, having worked with the adoption professionals at Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County, had the joy of driving to Ann Arbor to meet their new son. He had been born two months earlier at Ann Arbor’s old St. Joseph Hospital, about six weeks premature. By the end of November he was well enough to bring home. They excitedly bundled him up and brought him home to family and friends. Grandparents were there to greet the new arrival and he was welcomed with great joy into the family. In February of 1966, he was baptized, and welcomed into an even larger family – God’s family, the Church.

That was how I met and became a part of my two families – my parents, Gene and Jan and their families, and a little later, our parish family at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Saginaw. Almost 32 years later, as a newly-ordained priest, I was assigned to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor as its associate pastor. My life had made something of a complete circle. St. Thomas is just a few blocks from the old St. Joseph Hospital in which I was born. The original offices of Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County are just around the corner. I can’t help but wonder if my birth mother (or birth parents) had been influenced by the people of St. Thomas Parish to keep the baby she carried within her womb. Some of those folks may even still be parishioners at St. Thomas today. A life was saved and new life was offered. I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone involved in saving my life, most especially my parents, who made sure my new life is richly blessed by family and faith.

Julianna Xisi Lavey’s journey was much longer than mine. Born in China, Julianna’s adoptive mother, Kathleen, made the long journey there to bring her home to the Lansing area. Julianna’s life could have ended in China. Or worse, it might never have begun, if it weren’t for folks like Kathleen whose hearts are open to children who need loving homes. Today Julianna enjoys the gift of new life, both with Kathleen’s family and her extended family of faith. Julianna’s life was saved and now grows as a precious gift.

Jean Hausmann, a member of the pastoral care staff at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, also deals with new life, in its joys and sadness. Jean is regularly called upon to baptize babies who are in danger of death. She also ministers to parents whose newborns have died, by sharing with them the strength and reassurance of faith. Jean’s ministry doesn’t always have a happy ending, but it is invaluable to families and hospital staff dealing with crisis.

Saving lives and the life-saving sacrament of baptism is the focus of this issue of FAITH. Rita Thiron of the diocesan Office of Worship helps us to understand some of the rich history of baptism. Bishop Mengeling shares our inherent sense of the importance of baptism, and Bishop Povish gives some suggestions about how we can answer that age-old question, “Are you saved?”

All this and more as our journey in FAITH continues in the year of our Lord, 2002. May you have a blessed new year!