Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Saying Yes! Like St Joseph

I have found myself reflecting quite a bit over the past few weeks about the Holy Family--not only the Yes of our Lady, but also the Yes of St Joseph, maybe even more so than in the past.  After all, Mary was full of grace and without sin and Jesus was God made flesh, but Joseph was just your ordinary guy trying to live the life God called him to. I can relate to that on a whole other level.  I can only imagine that Joseph had thought his life would be different than it was.  Did Joseph ever imagine where his life would take him?  Even if he did, I doubt he foresaw the path his family’s lives would lead and how much they would affect the rest of mankind. God’s dreams for Joseph would guide him to become the Foster Father to the greatest Son ever to walk this Earth, but none of it could have happened without his Yes.   

Ever since I was a little girl, my greatest dream in life was to be a mother.  It might seem like a silly or small dream, but I firmly remember sitting on the church steps when I was seven or eight and planning it all out.  I would get married at 18, have eight children--one more than my parents did-- and live happily ever after.  I can say there have been many moments where my Yes to God has taken me into lands I never planned on visiting and adventures I may never have chosen on my own. But each turned out to be the greatest of blessings.  When I was just 20 years old, one such Yes in my life was when I became a foster mother to two amazing little boys. 

Fostering has always been a part of my life.  My mother took in foster children from the time
I was very small.  I can’t remember a time in my childhood that didn’t involve sharing my room with many sets of bunk beds and more goodbye’s than I could handle.  I remember being very young and deciding not to love too much because of how much it hurt to say goodbye.  This is how I would live a good part of my life, loving half way.  But in reality, it hurts much more to live this way.  You have so many regrets and you still have the pain of saying goodbye. But instead of facing this pain once, instead you face it over and over, day after day.  It doesn’t stop your pain but rather it just stops you from fully embracing the joy that comes with loving completely.  

What do you say when your best friend from high school calls to tell you her two sons are being taken away by the Department of Social Services and asks if you would be willing to take them?  I prayed about it for a moment and then said “Yes!” to one of the greatest adventures I have ever been part of.  Just like that, in a single phone call, I became a foster mother.  I had no idea at that time that this was only the beginning of the journey.  This would lead me to open a home for foster children with my sister Cindy, who is two years older than me. We took in two little boys and three teenage girls; it continued from there.  Each child that came into our home left an indelible imprint on my heart that will be with me always.  

For two and half years of my life, I was blessed to care for and love these amazing children as their foster mother, but my heart was also breaking for the suffering they had already endured.  I was also trying my hardest to not get too attached, for in fact they stress during training how much you are required not to get too close.  In my opinion this is impossible, and not in the best interest of the children.  They need someone to love them unconditionally even while the foster parent knows that it is going to hurt tremendously once the children are no longer with them.  My foster son once told me it was like my heart was a
puzzle and there were pieces cut out where each one of them fit into it. No one could take another one’s space and no one would never fill it; that is some deep wisdom for a 7-year-old, but also completely accurate.  The movie Tarzan by Disney came out around that time and I would always sing, “You’ll Be in My Heart” to the boys, and the girls indirectly since teenagers are too cool for you to sing to them.  I still have contact with all the children we fostered, was present for the births of several of their children, and continue to remind them how much I meant and still mean every word of that song and that they hold a place in my heart, always.

I have done a lot of growing up over the past almost 20 years since that first Yes, and I think that God is preparing me to one day again say Yes to being a foster mother. But this time, I will be able to put my whole heart in and have no regrets.  I've learned to not sweat the little things so much, to love as much and as long as I can, to not be afraid to say I was wrong and am sorry, and to get completely and totally attached even if it is only for the briefest of moments. Each child needs to know how much they are treasured by God through me.  Until that day comes, I am getting lots of practice by being a Big Sister through Big Sisters of America, nannying to two families with 6 children between them, and being a Foster Aunt to my sister’s foster children.  

Here are some statistics I came across while doing a paper for class on this subject. “According to the Children’s Bureau, child welfare agencies in the United States receive nearly 500,000 calls a month concerning child maltreatment, 50,000 reports of maltreatment are accepted by child welfare services for evaluation each week (almost 3 million a year), and about 1 million cases are opened for child welfare intervention annually.  These numbers are over and above the 550,000 children who have ongoing involvement in foster care each year, and a larger number formerly in foster care and now adopted or in guardianships.” (Barth, Lloyd, Chapman, Dickinson, Christ (2008)

There are so many opportunities to allow Love to grow in our hearts, we always have the choice.  So, my prayer will be that we each have a heart, like St Joseph, so connected to God that we are able to hear His voice sharing His dreams for our lives.  I also pray that we have the grace to respond without hesitation with a resounding Yes each and every time we are called to Foster Love.  What dreams might God be trying to share with you?  

Barth R. P., Lloyd E. C., Chapman M. V., Dickinson N. S., Christ S. L. (2008) Child welfare worker characteristics and job satisfaction: A national study. Social Work, 3, retrieved from

Christine Dufresne has been a Pauline Cooperator for 3 years. Originally from New Bedford, MA, she served at a mission in Kentucky for 16 months before settling in Waltham, MA. In addition to being a foster parent, she has been working with children in various ways for the past 20 years, helping with the children's program on retreats and with the Holy Family Institute group in Boston, and is currently a nanny for several families. She serves as a Eucharistic minister in her home parish of St. Mary’s in Waltham and visits the hospital monthly to bring Scripture and Communion to patients in the eating disorders and behavioral management wards.  Most recently she has graduated with her Associated Degree and has gone on to pursue her Bachelor's and Master's in the Human Services/Art Therapy fields.

1 comment:

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Love this reflection Sr Margaret Kerry