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TheCatholicSpirit.com - Honor and healing for birth moms

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Honor and healing for birth moms
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By Pat Norby   
Thursday, 01 July 2010

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When she was 17 years old, Sandy Sperrazza cradled her 3-day-old daughter in her arms during the trip from the hospital to the Catholic Infant Home in St. Paul, where she lived for several months before the birth.

sperrazza.jpg
Sperrazza
There, she placed her daughter for adoption. Sperrazza wouldn’t see her again for 20 years.

Sperrazza, now 65, sat in silence for many years as she heard sermons on the “wonderful benefits” of adoption.

“I felt like that miracle of birth was a sanctified event, but I was told to be ashamed of it,” said Sperrazza, a member of St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins. “As a birth mother I sat thinking, ‘I really suffered for 30 years, 40 years, and the church has never reached out to me.’”

Although there are Catholic support groups and retreats for women who had abortions, there were no resources for birth mothers in the archdiocese, she said. So, several birth mothers called the archdiocese to discuss putting together the first birth mothers retreat in 2008.

The third annual Day of Honor and Recognition for Birthmothers will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, July 17, at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bloomington.

Living with sorrow

“I think it’s offering an opportunity for some birth mothers who have lived with their sorrow silently,” Sperrazza said. “Doing this healing ceremony through the parish gives that opportunity for people to say, ‘Let’s talk about it, let’s deal with it, let’s bring it out from the secret and shed some light on it’ and hopefully your life will be blessed.”

Birth mothers have many struggles. Sperrazza points to the first Mother’s Day Mass she attended following her daughter’s birth.

“The celebrant asked mothers to stand for a special blessing. I wouldn’t stand — prior to my other children being born — because, though I considered myself a mother, I didn’t think I deserved to stand,” she said.

Because adoptions used to be completely closed, birth mothers never knew if their children were dead or alive. Even if a birth mother is able to meet the child that was given up for adoption, as Sperrazza was able to do, not raising that child causes a sense of loss and grief.

The young women who were not given a choice about adoption may need to forgive the people who made decisions for them, Sperrazza added.

“The children we’ve placed for adoption need to know we’ve never forgotten them and that we love them,” she said. 

Alice West, 67, is still hoping to reconnect with the daughter she gave up for adoption at the Catholic Infant Home.

“I would like forgiveness. Not to make excuses. Just to say ‘I’m sorry,’” said West, who now lives in Arizona.

West attended the 2008 retreat at the urging of a social worker at Catholic Charities who has tried to help her reconnect with her child. West is returning to this year’s retreat as a speaker who will share her story with other birth mothers.

“For me, it was that first love. We didn’t consider the results,” West said. “Because we were underage, we weren’t able to make the decisions for ourselves that we would have preferred to.”

West said that attending the retreat gave her “a sense of knowing there were more of us out there than I realized with very similar stories.” She said she is hoping to let other women know during her talk that “you are not alone.”

The event is a joint venture of Catholic Charities adoption outreach and the Office of Marriage, Family and Life, said Sharon Wilson, respect life coordinator in the archdiocesan office.

“It fits in really well for the respect-life work that we do because we’re honoring these women for making the choice for life,” said Wilson, who recently began to oversee the retreat started by Kathy Laird, family life director, and Connie Roller, adoption social worker at Catholic Charities.

Retreat for birth moms only


A Day of Honor and Recognition for Birthmothers will offer healing, sharing and resources for women who gave up children for adoption.
  • When: 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Saturday, July 17.
  • Where: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 9900 Lyndale Ave. S., Bloomington.
  • Cost: $10, includes lunch.
  • Register: Call (651) 291-4488 or visit www. archspm.org
 
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