Christmas stories: Reconnecting with family, and making new ones


Christmas is fast approaching — a time to be reminded of all we have and to prepare ourselves for a new birth. It is a time to celebrate with our family and community — to share time, joy, gifts and love. The coming together in joy reminds me of an event held at Brother Francis Shelter in October.

The Spirit of Denali at Brother Francis Shelter was a celebration of Alaska Native cultures and traditions. There was traditional Alaska Native food, dancing and music, along with space and time to reconnect with friends, family and community. It was an incredibly special event, organized and planned by the Brother Francis Shelter Advisory Council. The council is a group of dedicated, compassionate people working for more than 30 years — since the shelter began — to support the guests and preserve the mission of Brother Francis Shelter. Their commitment and love reminds me of the best part of all of us.

I want to tell a story of family love too. At Christmas we celebrate and remember the Holy Family and the love they shared. Family is such an important part of connection and stability. Some have been blessed with a loving birth family, and many create that family in their lives. At Catholic Social Services we work to support our clients. We help them build and nurture a network or family of supportive people in their lives.

A couple from Eagle River decided they wanted to adopt after trying to have kids for more than 10 years. The husband works in industrial design and the wife is an elementary school teacher. She’s always wanted to be a mom. He had never thought about being a parent, but then he met his wife, and that changed. After discussing their options, they approached Catholic Social Services, wanting to adopt.

The couple learned about challenges they would face, and issues an adopted child and the birth family face. Next came the long waiting pool — the hardest part. The wait can inspire some with hopes of becoming a parent, and sometimes brings crushing sadness after not being chosen. This couple received a phone call from a friend of a friend. A birth mother out of state was looking to set up an adoption plan for her unborn child. The birth mom was in a situation in which she would not be able to take care of the baby. The couple said yes. A high-risk pregnancy led to a premature birth, and the couple rushed to meet their child.

The couple worked with our Pregnancy Support and Adoption Services program to become a family in Alaska. In less than a week, our staff worked with the couple to complete the paperwork. Everything was in place so the new adoptive mother could bring the baby home to Alaska. Catholic Social Services will work with them over the next six months as they complete their adoption.

In celebration this holy season, I invite you to come together with us at Catholic Social Services to share in our family and in our community. We wish you all the joys of Christmas and pray for a new year full of light and hope.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit

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