Panel Encourages Notre Dame to Adopt a Culture of Life

Birth mother, adoptive mother, adoptee, agency director share experiences

Joy spilled forth from the four women who gave testimony to their experiences with the beauty of adoption, which impacted students and community members in attendance. As last week’s panel sponsored by Students for Child-Oriented Policy and Notre Dame Right to Life testified, adoption is frequently misunderstood. It is not unusual for a pregnant woman in crisis to hear, “No one will love your child” or “Abortion is the only option.” Notre Dame students at the event were challenged to discard this mentality and enter into the peace and hope that these three women have found through adoption.

Mary Ball, Director of Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency (HFCAA), began the evening sharing a letter that she received from a 10-year-old boy who had been adopted through her agency. He thanked her in the letter, writing, “If it wasn’t for your agency being a thing, I wouldn’t have the family I have now.”

Cesili Forney, the second speaker, placed her son in adoption after carrying him to term during her first semester of college. Away from home, and feeling utterly alone, she carried the secret of her pregnancy for four-and-a-half months, during which she felt trapped, lost, and angry, and sought to get rid of the “problem” in any way possible. Abortion that late into pregnancy was too expensive for her, and she knew it was against her morals, so she took responsibility and told her family around Christmas. She asked the question, What is best for my child? Cesili began to consider adoption and was referred to Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency.

The day her son was born, Cesili shared, “I really had to think about someone’s life other than my own.” Once, when asked how she could give her child to a stranger, she responded, “I’m giving my child a life.” Her emotions were conflicted, but she affirmed that the positives of adoption outweighed the negatives. Overjoyed by this beautiful boy but simultaneously heartbroken, she found great hope in handing her son to a couple that loved him as their own. She reflected, “Now that I’ve chosen life for him, he can be whatever he wants to be.”

Trish Reimann shared how humbled she is by the heroic love of birth mothers like Cesili. Trish and her husband adopted four children and have repeated to them how loved they are every day of their lives. She shared some statistics: In the 1990’s, a study was done demonstrating that 50% of mothers in unexpected pregnancies chose single parenthood, 49% chose abortion, and less than 1% chose to place the child in adoption; since then, this statistic has not changed. In the U.S., for every newborn child placed in adoption, there are 40 couples looking to adopt. Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency conducts extensive screening and interviewing to ensure that the adoptive couples are equipped and prepared to love and nurture the child. Trish reflected that this was the “toughest job interview of their lives. And shouldn’t it be?” Trish and Cesili have been in contact through advocacy work for HFCAA, and discovered a few years ago that Cesili’s child is Trish’s godson. This connection brought them both immense joy and illustrates the family that surrounds that adopted child and allows him to flourish amidst so much love.

The final panelist, Ande Verteramo, was adopted at birth and knew she was adopted since about the age of four. Yet, she noted that she never felt unloved. She never felt the need, until recently, to contact her birth mother, because her own family gave her all the love she could want. She commented that if she decides to contact her eventually, she realizes that she must do it with the selflessness that her mother showed in placing her for adoption—honoring that choice and the distance her birth mother chose to keep.

All of the women on the panel expressed the joy, pain, and self-sacrifice that accompany an unexpected pregnancy. Their witness to the fulfillment they found in living for another rather than for themselves inspired those in attendance to advocate this loving response. In an age where mothers are pressured into abortions and feel that there are no options, it is essential to provide the options and support needed, and, in the words of Cesili, to remember to “never confuse the will of the majority with the will of God.”

Carolyn Ebner is a junior majoring in PLS. She loves events and conferences and will drop anything to attend an event where there is McKenna Center coffee. Contact her at if you need a friend to join you at an event, or would like to discuss the joy of a cup of black coffee.

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