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Ep. 271 How 22 Familes Adopted 77 Foster Kids & Walking With Moms in Need
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Episode Description

Marking the second anniversary of the Dobbs decision this week, we visit with Kat Talalas of the USCCB to discuss the success of Walking with Moms in Need, and why this ministry is so vital in a post-Roe world. The nationwide parish-driven initiative provides support for mothers in crisis pregnancies, connecting women in need to their local Catholic church with volunteers who offer resources, support services, and authentic Christian relationships.

We also talk with writer Rebekah Weigel about her new film, Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot, reminding us that we are all called to care for the orphan and the widow. The film documents the experience of one east Texas congregation that came together to change their community and adopt 77 of the most difficult-to-place children in the foster system.

Father Roger Landry also offers an inspiring homily as he continues the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage celebrating 25 years of his priestly vocation.

Bios

Kat Talalas is the Assistant Director for Pro-life Communications at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) where she plans and executes the Pro-Life Secretariat’s media and communications strategy. As an attorney and journalist, she has advocated for the pro-life cause across government, media, religious and nonprofit sectors, and served as a program coordinator and media trainer for the pro-life nonprofit, Walking with Moms in Need. Kat earned her BA in English from Rutgers and JD from the College of William and Mary School of Law. Her writing has appeared in many secular and non-secular publications.

Rebekah Weigel is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and producer known for her work on The Butterfly Circus and Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot. As a foster and adoptive parent and dedicated child advocate, her passion is to see the faith community care for vulnerable children and families – a subject documented poignantly in her latest film. Rebekah is a National Ambassador for the Global Orphan Project and serves on the board for the Human Trafficking Legal Network.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. He writes for numerous publications, speaks on radio and TV, and is the author of the book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God. A graduate of Harvard and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, he served as Attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN in New York. Father Landry continues his journey along the full 1500-mile Eucharist Pilgrimage this summer en route to its culmination in Indianapolis next month.

The following transcript is machine generated.

Episode 271 Transcript

GrazieHello friends, and welcome to Conversations with Consequences. We are the radio show and podcast of the Catholic Association where we aim to change the culture one conversation at a time. You can listen to Conversations with Consequences on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. Eastern, or catch the encore at $0.05. We are also on Sirius XM Channel 130, of course.
Our radio show is always a podcast. Go to the Catholic Association, Dawgs podcasts, or directly to wherever you listen to your podcast. I'm your host is Dr. Gracie Christie. Thank you for joining us again this week at Conversations. Today, we have two good friends of the show coming back to us, and I'm very happy to welcome Rebecca Weigel.
She's the writer of the new film on foster care called Sound of Hope, The story of Possum Trot opening in the movie theaters on July 4th weekend. But first, despite the attacks of which there are many are pro-life, work does not stop in the post Roe world. In fact, it is changing and expanding. And one group that is doing tremendous work is the USCCB working with Moms in Need program.
It supports mothers and families soon to be moms and also their babies in order for them to choose life and form good families as well as thrive. My co-host Maureen Ferguson joins me as we welcome Kat Talal as she's the assistant director of the Pro-Life Communications and the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the USCCB. Also, Chelsea Gomez, who serves as program consultant to bring walking to moms in need to dioceses across the country.
Welcome to the show, Kat and Chelsea.
Kat TalalasThank you so much, Gracie, for having us on. Thank you so much. Great to be here.
GrazieWell, it's our honor and our pleasure. And we wanted to check in with you again. You were on Kat several months ago. Maybe it was a year ago that this program was just getting off the ground after a lot of planning and a lot of, I'm sure, intense energy behind it. It's the program of walking with moms in need from the USCCB, something that right now I can't imagine anything more important from so many different perspectives now that we're living in this post Roe world, from the of course, from the actual perspective of the material needs and the and the spiritual and psychological needs of of of of mothers and their families.
And also from even the the political perspective. And the big picture perspective of of of a country trying to come to terms with a whole new way of of dealing with this very difficult question of abortion. So thank you again for joining us. And Kat, what is the core mission and why don't you give us a refresher on the core mission of the program and what you're hoping it will accomplish?
Kat TalalasSure. Well, walking with moms in need is a process by which Catholic parishes walk in the shoes of pregnant and parenting moms in need who are vulnerable in their communities. And after this process of evaluating what it would actually be like to be a mother in need in my local community if I were pregnant and I was struggling or if I were parenting young children and having difficulties, where would I turn?
After answering those questions, parishes then undergo an analysis and decide how can we stand in that gap and truly walk with these women as our sisters?
ChelseaSo so this is an effort to get the people in the pews to step it up and see how all of us can can assist women in need. And and as Gracy said, it's hard to imagine a more important part of the pro-life movement right now in our post-truth era. You know, I'm I'm here in Washington, D.C., where there's so much focus on protecting unborn children and their mothers in the law.
But of course, there's always been, you know, twin pillars of the pro-life movement, protecting children and mothers with the force of the law. But but the equally important, if not more important, pillar of supporting pregnant mothers and their children in need. So so tell us how I know this program was initially launched quite a while ago, just before the pandemic hit.
So I know there's been a bit of a relaunch. And of course, I'm sure things have been accelerated since the Dobbs decision came down. So. So tell us, how is it going? Especially post Dobbs?
Kat TalalasWell, as you said, the we had always planned to launch Walking with Moms in Need of March of 2020 for the 25th anniversary of Evangelion V Day. Little did we know that that very month, the pandemic would completely change the entire world and actually exacerbate the situation for many vulnerable women who were in a challenging pregnancy or in a challenging home situation.
So we didn't we did not anticipate it, but it actually ended up being God's providential timing to ask parishes to turn their attention to pregnant parenting moms and need the anticipation of the Dobbs case happening definitely accelerated. I think the interest in many places to having preparations for what this outcome could be, right? Having pastoral a pastoral response available if there would be an increase in women seeking either seeking one abortion or seeking an alternative to abortion if they were somehow in an abortion restriction.
So Dobbs definitely intensified what what the initial launch already, you know, kind of lay the groundwork for. And now we see that there has been a great interest, especially after the act Mother Dobbs decision, which really did bring so much of the responsibility of making decisions on the legal status of abortion back to the states and back to local communities.
We found that walking with moms and really providential to be there in those local communities, to be able to catch women who might be affected by this decision. And they're in greater need of support and pastoral care.
GrazieThere is a charge I hear levied all the time, and you hear it, too. Everyone hears it that pro-life people like us, we only care about the baby before the baby's born. And after that, we we wash our hands. I happen to know it's not true. I happen to know that people who care about unborn babies have that same level of care for babies that have already been born.
And and really for human beings that are vulnerable at any stage of their lives. But it is a charge that's lobbed against us. And I I'm wondering, are you trying to make make connections between the good hearted, generous people and sitting in the pews and all these parishes and actual people in need in ways that are practical? Because I find that it's that practical.
How do you find the need and then find the people who want to relieve the need and then put those two groups together?
Kat TalalasThat's a great question. Gracey, And absolutely that is a significant goal of argument. Moms a need, I think the greatest, the greatest slander in in modern times are against, you know, pro-life people who have been the ones to actually offer genuine alternatives to women who are facing a challenging pregnancy. If you walk into a Planned Parenthood or an abortion clinic and you say, hey, I don't have anywhere to live, I have an abusive boyfriend, I am pregnant, and I don't have a great job situation right now.
What do I do? They're unlikely to say, hey, you know, here we have this this maternity home that you can go visit or hey, you know, we can help you get a better job situation and we will try to help you find a safe place to live or give you some rent to tide you over. However, there are absolutely Catholic organizations in place that do that.
There are pregnancy care centers that make those connections already. And so working with moms and he really does try to do grace, as you said so well, is to identify those local resources that are already in existence, both direct pro-life pregnancy resources and also the broad. So the broad swath of resources available through the Catholic Church. Walking with moms need is fundamentally a process where parishes come together and parishioners, people in the pews come together to identify local resources, including existing pregnancy care center ministries and pro-life ministries, but also resources like Catholic hospitals, Catholic Charities, Saint Vincent de Paul.
There's a wide array of services that the Catholic Church offers people truly from the womb to the tomb and connecting all of those resources, building strong relationships between their parishes and the is helping agencies and nonprofits. And ultimately it involves discerning really more effective ways to communicate the help. It's already out there and already available to women locally and also involving parishioners in a response where they're very they know what what is out there.
And if they are personally able if a woman comes to them and says, hey, I'm pregnant or my sister is pregnant and she doesn't know what to do. They know what the resources out there are and where to connect women to those resources.
ChelseaChelsea Since you're the hands on person in implementing this fantastic and visionary program, can you tell us how is it actually playing out on the ground? Maybe you could share a success story with us in a particular diocese just to sort of illustrate how this actually works on the ground?
Kat TalalasAbsolutely. It's been just really incredible to see how it's been spreading very much often at the grassroots level. And we of parishioners and Catholics who are really energized by the mission and who who want to serve. And so we're seeing participation all across the country. We know that it's been perhaps a little slower than our initial launch would have anticipated.
But we do trust in God's providence and the movements of the Holy Spirit and how he's he's using this in his perfect ways. So, for example, was a parish in the Diocese of Orange in California who had a pregnancy center just about a mile away from the local parish. And so they they really ran with walking with moms and need really kind of from the earliest phases of this program and started really developing a strong relationship with that pregnancy center, organizing volunteers, so much so that they're still involved that the pregnancy center changed their intake form to ask women coming in in need of assistance if they would like to be matched with a mentor
from the local parish. So not only are they getting that practical support from the pregnancy center, they're also being paired with spiritual support and companionship and friendship from volunteers at their local parish. In and through some of these these connections, they were able to find that there was one woman who had, I think it was eight children and was pregnant in need of assistance.
And they found out that her she was actually Catholic and her other children had not been baptized because there was some type of fee associated with that baptismal process and they couldn't afford it. And so they were able to take care of that. And she was able to have all of her children baptized and brought into the church.
And so it's really, you know, even beyond just basic pregnancy support, it's that holistic evangelization and and really bringing souls to Christ also. Another great story out of Miami, where there was a parish that recognized that a lot of the women in need of the pregnancy support services for their from their local center were able to make it.
There is a large population of agricultural workers who didn't have the transportation and the hours didn't exactly align with their schedules. So they worked with the pregnancy center, who actually shut down their operations one day and brought their mobile unit out to the parish nearby where these women could actually access the services. And they provided all of them, brought the pregnancy center to them.
And then as part of follow up, they did organize fundraisers and donations to buy Uber gift cards so that these women would be able to access ongoing pregnancy care and be able to access transportation to the vital appointments that they had.
GrazieWhat beautiful stories. Chelsea, I'm in Miami, and I know exactly what you're talking about. And we have we have a huge migrant population in the Homestead area. And it's true, it's very difficult to make it to Miami. And it's even costly if you're riding the bus and you're going to lose a whole day of work. So what a pretty what a pretty idea of from the pregnancy care center.
Are you connecting these wonderful ideas that happened in one parish and one diocese? Are you is part of the program making these best practices and broadening them and showing them to other people and giving them good ideas in another part of the country?
Kat TalalasAbsolutely. You do have regular webinars and other types of virtual events. We do share these success stories. We also try to share them on our social media pages. I think that the best way for parishes certainly is to see the stories and go and get these ideas, but really to go through it, to first go through anyone who's interested and potentially, if they want, the need to go through our action guide because it is so thorough and sharing different ways to use walking with moms in the process, just that any parish and any parish situation where they already have a strong pregnancy care ministry or not.
And and then certainly the these wonderful stories, I think also help in illustrating how to put that action guide to use it. Right. Interesting to it, Kat said, you know, in the action guide, we give countless examples of how parishes could step in and ideas for how they could respond to the needs of their community, look at their unique gifts.
However, some of these things that's why this is parish based is because only parishes that are in touch with these women in their communities are going to know their specific needs. So, for example, you know the story out of Miami, only that parish could come up with something like that. So it is really allowing the Holy Spirit to guide this process, to use what we've provided as a template and to, of course, find inspiration from, you know, the work being done around the country, but also know that, you know, parishes are the experts on their communities and the women in them that need to be served.
ChelseaSo you're absolutely right that this the templates are really well thought through. I've read through all of the material, and I was so impressed at how organized it is and how it's really very simple in a sense. It's really turnkey the way you've designed this program. But what the program really needs, it sounds like, is more volunteers and our listeners, our listeners are really goodhearted, people who are always looking for ways to be helpful.
So so if somebody wants to volunteer for walking with moms and need it sounds like it could be as simple as putting a sign. You know, one of those signs outside of the church that we've all seen, you know, pregnant and I need you need help. Call this phone number and go into your your your priest to just ask to get this started.
So, I mean, perhaps you could tell us what is sort of what's the first step for a listener who wants to volunteer for this program? Is it talking to their parish priest?
Kat TalalasThat is, I believe, the first. But I would say that even before that first actual step of talking to pastor, which is primary. But but even just before that just going to walking with moms dot com our website and taking a look at our action guide summary there is a like 5 to 8 page summary of our much more in-depth action guide that explains what walking with Moms is.
And then after familiarizing yourself with the Walking with Moms process, going to your pastor exactly as you said, Maureen and and saying and making it clear that you want to get this started at your parish and you are ready to to get this started yourself, that you are ready to volunteer. Because as we know, so many pastors are so burdened, even post code.
But so many of the parishes are not back to normal yet, even though it's got years afterwards. There's parish life hasn't completely returned to what it was. And even even before the pandemic, pastors were overburdened. So taking that responsibility as lady to to take a look at the materials, just, you know, get it, get accustomed to the idea, and then absolutely making that personal connection with your pastor and saying, I want to do this.
I'm going to get a group together. We want to do this at our parish and offering to take that burden, you know, on yourself. And I call it a burden, really. It's a gift. So much of walking with moms is is really, as you said, very simple. It's all laid out, everything that you need to do, the resources are all free.
And it's laid out very clearly. How to get this started at your parish be the essential need exactly as you said, are volunteers. And their first step is to go to their pastor and say, I want to get this started our parish, so we can market moms in need.
GrazieIf you're just joining us, you're listening to Conversations with Consequences on EWTN Radio. I'm your host, Dr. Gracie Christy. Alongside my co-host is Maureen Ferguson. And we are learning more about the great efforts of walking with moms in need. A USCCB initiative with Kat Talal, US, and Chelsea Gomez of the Office of the Pro-Life Secretariat. TLC What, if any, chilling effect or fear have you have you experienced out there or heard about in the in the different dioceses with all the different attacks on pregnancy care centers and churches that we've been experiencing since?
DOBBS. One, for instance, in my own archdiocese is one of our pregnancy care centers, was was vandalized with really aggressive, violent rhetoric. One one day over Memorial Day weekend. And our volunteers were quite scared. Have you been hearing things like this from other parts of the country?
Kat TalalasThankfully, we haven't. Specifically, we do know these these terrible acts of violence are are on the rise. And I do think there is certainly a need to be conscious of that and to take appropriate steps to keep everyone safe and to be prudent. But I think what's actually been really encouraging is that even though we're seeing that rise of those stories in the news across the country, it really has not waylaid any of our volunteers.
Those who are passionate about this. If anything, I think it just shows how much how needed our services are when they're under attack. We know the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians, and when they see these persecutions, I think it's it really is a reminder of what's at stake. And it's and like I said, it has not discouraged our local volunteers in their mission.
And so just to see their courage in the faces of of attacks or prosecutions. You know, they really care about the women in need and they don't want to let these fears keep them from serving them.
ChelseaSo so this work of expanding the pro-life safety net, it can be pretty simple, it sounds like, in terms of getting parishioners to connect with the local pregnancy center and volunteer there or support them financially. But I've also seen a couple of reports of more ambitious projects which are very inspiring. And I just read something recently about in Los Angeles.
The diocese turned one of their empty convents into a maternity home, and I thought, what a beautiful response here. And as we're, you know, facing the challenges of living in a postwar world. So have you heard of that sort of thing going on? Because, you know, pregnancy centers are, you know, beyond marvelous and heroic in the work they do.
But the maternity homes really get to the the longer term need and, you know, we've heard so many success stories from women coming out of these maternity homes. And I'm wondering if you have had much experience with maternity homes.
Kat TalalasWell, we absolutely have a very close relationship, praise God, with the Sisters of Life, who have been incredibly supportive of walking with moms in need and who are actually, you know, doing versions of walking with moms and in Arizona and in New York. And so this is just a way for those listeners who are maybe might not be as familiar to have this beautiful ministry of of accompaniment to pregnant and parenting moms.
I mean, they truly they never let anyone fall through the cracks. And and they have been such a model to us of what is possible, you know, through the power of God and the Holy Spirit. So we we absolutely were talking with months of a very close relationship with the Sisters of Life and and love their model of walking and welcoming women into their home.
As far as other parishes or other dioceses are taking up the maternity home model, I think a lot of them are right now trying to make connections to maternity homes that are already that already exist, and spotlighting what what is already there in terms of resources. And also to, I think, an important thing to remember with what is our it's sometimes hard to gauge, but it's already happening with walking with moms or what's under way, partly because many parishes just began the process of working with them on the need and that process first involves an inventory taking inventory of what already exists and then analyzing and then committing to a response.
So many of the places you started walking with moms in need are not yet in the place of starting their a big project, like a maternity home or pregnancy center or another large project yet. But we might be seeing that in the coming months and certainly in the coming years.
GrazieIn my church. And I think it must be very common across the United States. We have a very nice pro-life ministry. This I think all women and lots of older ladies, and they're very they're very committed to praying and and and the little projects that that we do like baby bottle campaigns and things like that is is this the appropriate group to to approach and say, hey, there's this wonderful new initiative because you'd be surprised or maybe you're not surprised because you're at the USCCB and you know how these things go, that sometimes all this, like the information, doesn't filter down into the that granular level where somebody's going to take charge and say, let's
let's, you know, just use our pro-life ministry in this way or attach ourselves to this great program from the USCCB.
Kat TalalasGreat. Well, that's a great question there. And there are two important points to address. One is that first and foremost, no matter what a parish is already doing, whether they're already doing something as comprehensive as, say, the Gabriel Project or preparers, or whether they have absolutely nothing for pregnancy care, a ministry walking with moms need can help them because it is about connecting people in the parish to resources that are already existing and creating those resources where they don't exist.
So yes, if there is already a great group of women who are, you know, volunteering and praying and knitting baby blankets, they can absolutely participate in walking with moms and walking with moms. And it is not meant to displace them or, you know, step on what it is they're already doing, but to enhance it and to expand it.
And but the second thing is who is maybe the best person to start walking with moms? And I know there are many answers to that based on the needs of the parish. What's wonderful about walking with moms in need is it's all about service. I mean, nothing and walking with moms in need mentions abortion, actually, because it's fundamentally about offering genuine alternatives, genuine support to women in a challenging pregnancy.
And so truly, anyone can get behind this, even if they've never been involved with pro-life issue before, even if they're uncomfortable with pro-life advocacy in a legal way. Walking with moms need is something that I think everyone who has a spirit of charity can get behind because it's about helping the most vulnerable women in our country. We know that a lot of women who are particularly women who are vulnerable to abortion, 85% of them are unmarried.
Three quarters are below the poverty line. These are the most they're out there alone in so many ways. And this is about offering resources. It is about saying what is out there, What is this woman need that she need a friend? If she need a ride to the Catholic clinic for a checkup, does she need assistance with rent?
You know, if I were in her shoes, what would I need? And how can I get that to her husband or parish? Help her. And. And if you already had a program in place that does something like that, walking with Moms Legal help you promote it. So so I think absolutely the leaders can be people who have already who are already involved with certain aspects of pro-life ministry.
But it's just as possible that we can get new parishioners. And they're looking at this question in a different way, are coming from a different perspective. Who can who are equally capable of taking walking at mom's need and running with it?
GrazieYou know, that makes a lot of sense to me because I do know people who see the pro-life ministry as sort of a sort of a political, you know, praying in front of centers. And they don't feel that they want to be out there, you know, being in your face about about their beliefs. But I know that they want to help and they want to to be that supportive person who, because they are people are full of generosity and full of love in their hearts for their struggling brothers and sisters.
So I do see I see that there is a wonderful well of people there that we can find and draw on.
Kat TalalasAbsolutely. Yeah. And as you said, I mean, we have so much love and gratitude for those sidewalk warriors who are praying, those rosaries and who are doing so much good for women who are approaching a pregnancy care center. But walking with moms leaders is different from that. And it's not it doesn't displace it and it doesn't replace it.
It's a different way of looking at pregnancy care ministry and it and yes, people who are not comfortable personally doing that have it have a place. And while you have the need for sure.
GrazieWell, thank you so much, Chelsea and Kat, for joining us and talking to us and informing us, giving us this great update on Walking with Moms in Need, a wonderful initiative from the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. Thank you for your time. And tell us again the website where our listeners can go and find out more and then start this wonderful project at their parish.
Kat TalalasThank you so much And it is WW w dot walking with mom dot com.
GrazieEvery morning the Catholic Association reviews all the latest news and sends our subscribers a carefully curated collection of the most important news of the day. Items are specifically selected for a smart Catholic audience like you don't let the world take you by surprise. Subscribe to our daily media roundup at the Catholic Association dot org.
Welcome back to Conversations with Consequences. I'm your host is Dr. Gracie Christie. And I'm very happy to welcome Rebecca Weigel. She's the writer of the new film on foster care called Sound of Hope. The story of Possum tracks opening in the movie theaters on July 4th weekend. Welcome to the show, Rebecca.
Rebekah WeigelYeah, thank you so much for having me. We are getting, you know, very positive feedback from people that are watching live pre screenings and just being really moved and moved to take action to care for kids, which is what our intent was.
GrazieSo the movie is about foster care, but it zeroes in on on one particular really spectacular happening in a in a particular town in a particular church community. And I don't want to give too much away but maybe you can give our listeners a thumbnail sketch of what happens in Possum Trot, which is a place in Texas, if I, if I'm correct.
Yeah.
Rebekah WeigelSeattle, Little Unincorporated community in Deep East Texas. So kind of in an area of Texas where, you know, a lot of people have overlooked to be honest, there's not a lot. It's the piney woods of Deep East Texas and this small little historically black church led by a pastor and his wife, Reverend Martin and first lady Donna martin.
And, you know, this started as a true story that happened in 1998. First Lady Donna martin felt called by God to start caring for vulnerable children and convinced her husband and the church and the community. And in the end, 22 families adopted 77 and some of the most difficult to place children in the Texas child welfare system and ended up just clearing out the foster system in their area.
So this story has been highlighted and People magazine and Good Morning America and Oprah and in the Foster adopt space, it's kind of a legend. So we just really wanted to bring this story to the world and inspire more churches to do the same.
GrazieOne thing that caught my attention right away is that the the the fostering parents are black and their community is black and they're not well-off, as you say. They're in the in the deep piney part of Texas. These are people who, when you think of foster care and adoption, you don't think about people like that adopting in a sense.
Now we always have this mental picture, right, of, well, it's just not what we expect on lots of different levels. Right. And that so that was wonderful when the film opens and I realize what's happening because it does open your eyes to the to the to the reality that foster care and adoption is for everybody, for all kinds of children and all kinds of parents.
And and that's a beautiful thing, right? We always think, there's certain people who are specifically set in the world in such a way that they can foster care and they can and they can adopt. But that's not true.
Rebekah WeigelYeah, I mean, that's, you know, something that jurors of this story is really like this, these heroes, you know, these that had so much courage and the someone's faith and just stepped out and faith and obedience and started meeting the needs in their community and outside their community. And, you know, and like you said, they didn't have a lot of resources.
They didn't have a lot of training, and they just acted in obedience and in faith. And look what happened. And so I think it's a testimony that, you know, if they can do it, we all can do it. I mean, there is just really no excuse. Like if we're people of faith and we're, you know, called by God to care for vulnerable children, to care for the orphan, to care for the widow, to care for the, you know, defend the fatherless.
I mean, there's so many scriptures that tell us that this is what we should be doing. And so that's why we told the stories to highlight and to show that I think they led the way for what the church can do across America and across the world.
GrazieWhen when I was watching the movie in the beginning, there's the it's the mother. It's the woman, the wife of the reverend who the wife of the reverend who feels called by God to to this path. And I, I immediately identified with it so closely. My husband and I had four children when I felt called by God to adopt.
And we had very much the same we had the same conversations that you show in the movie. My husband and I over and over and over again. My husband kept saying, But this is not these are not our children. These this is these are not our we don't know what we're doing. We're not the right people to do this.
What makes you think this is the right path? And it was so beautiful to see that put on screen in a way that's so believable. And I know that is true because fostering and adoption is a vocation. It's it's something that's laid on you by God. And and I think that maybe it's laid on lots of people, but people don't recognize that call or they're afraid or they don't feel up to they don't feel they have the strength to step up and and fill in that that need.
Rebekah WeigelYeah. I think that's really I mean, that's how we felt for a long time. I mean, our family in 2013, you know, stepped in to foster and adopt two of our children. So we have three biological children and, you know, like the Martins and like many people, it was on our heart and we knew that this was something that we should do or that maybe someday in the future we would do.
But we kept putting it off, thinking, well, we'll wait for the right time. We'll right we'll wait till we have more money. We'll wait till, you know, it's the perfect situation. And at some point we just really had to come to grips with the idea and terms with idea that there's never really a right time, you know? And if God's laid this on your heart and on our hearts, then we have to just act because the kids are waiting in the system.
There's 100,000 children that are desperately waiting and praying for families. And we have to, you know, step forward. And like the Martins, it wasn't the right and it didn't feel like the perfect time, I'm sure. I mean, they have a child with special needs that is severely disabled and had many challenges of their own financially and, you know, running a church.
And but, you know, when you step into that place, I feel like that's where God meets you and he gives you what you need. And so that's what we're hoping happens, is that as people watch this, they are really moved to see the plight of children. I mean, when you pass by an accident and you see people at the side of the road hurting, you pull over and you stop and you help them.
If you see a child grounding, you know, right in front of you, you would never just keep walking and think, well, I'll wait till I have more time and energy. I mean, and that's the goal of the film really, is to highlight what's happening with children all over this country and to get good people and people of faith to step in and act.
GrazieOne thing that we tend to do is that we think that there's a bureaucracy set up to do this, that we pay our taxes, and that there are professionals who are paid for their time and they know what they're doing and they've taken the right courses and got the right certifications and that those are the right people. Those are the right people to go out and take care of this problem that we we avert our eyes.
From your movie, the Possum Trot shows us that the right person might be you, might be me, might be, might be just anyone sitting in that theater and being moved by God to to be the right person.
Rebekah WeigelYeah, I would argue that as the church we've given it over to the government and it was never intended to be the government's responsibility to take care of vulnerable children. It is the church's responsibility and they thrive in families and we're a family. And, you know, bringing children into family is what provides the healing and the love and the security that they desperately need to find healing.
And so that is really what we want to see flipped around, is that we take responsibility for these children and we no longer say this is the government's is either the government is taking care of it because when we gave it over to the government, things didn't haven't gone well. I mean, children are languishing in a foster system and they're aging out of the system.
20,000 children every year, age out of the foster system. And the outcomes are terrible because they were intended to be with families and have that support system. And so when we don't take care of the kids, these vulnerable children, their aides out, they often become homeless, they're targeted by traffickers. Incarceration rates are high pregnancy rates. But when they're placed in loving families, they thrive.
GrazieYou don't shy away in the movie from the difficulties that these children are experiencing. And you the I'm sure that you felt that you had to strike a careful balance, right, to show the reality, but not to go so far as to be too overly shocking and would just make it make it unbearable for the viewer.
Rebekah WeigelYeah, I mean, we really trying to find that balance because no one wants to just sit in a movie theater and have medicines for them. And so, you know, I will say to the listeners like, this is a compelling story. It is not just, you know, Lord, I don't want to go and sit and feel guilty about how I should be caring for children.
There are so many ways that you can help care for children. It doesn't have to be Not everyone is called to foster and adopt. But you know what we're hearing from audiences and in theaters, I mean, they're laughing out loud. It seems they're enjoying it. They're connecting with the characters. They're seeing the church on display as something beautiful, something appealing.
People that are coming into theaters that don't have any faith are coming out saying, I want to go to church. I want to be part of something like that because it's beautiful. When God's people come together and do hard things together. I mean, that's the way he intended for us to be a family in the trenches, caring for the vulnerable, doing hard things together, wrapping around, supporting each other.
And when we see that, you know, it's it's a beautiful thing. It isn't something that's like, you know, because when we do it together, there's something in each of us that longs to be in the trenches together doing that. And that's where I think true community is really formed.
GrazieWell, that's beautiful. That's a beautiful message for today's culture, which is so individualistic and atomized. And as you say, so many people are missing that in their lives. The idea that that we're all in this great project together to build the kingdom of God. Right.
Rebekah WeigelAnd yeah.
GrazieAnd it's a project we don't do on our own. You don't go off with your hoe and your and your and your pick and you go off to build the kingdom by yourself. You. This is a team. This is a team project.
Rebekah WeigelYes, absolutely.
GrazieAnd the and watching the whole congregation in Possum Trot being fired up and engaged it's something is something that I've seen happen myself in a in a smaller way when when you somebody in in a in a in a church community and a in a parish and they they go off and and adopt and make one of these these or a or foster and make one of these these really brave I mean I think I can say brave enough because it took a lot of courage.
I think it takes courage for anyone to do this, even though the blessings are so enormous that you can't even you can't even remember later how difficult right that first step was. It's hard to remember because you're so right and you're so blessed by the by to become a parent in that way. But it doesn't happen. And it does.
I do.
Rebekah WeigelYeah. And I do think it's it's really trusting God because he's clearly told us to do this. You know, if you read scriptures, it's throughout all of our scriptures that this is our calling. It seems 127 says true and undefiled religion is to care for the orphans and widows and to keep ourselves from being, you know, tainted and spotted from the world.
And the world says pursue comfort. The world says, pursue your own family, your own agenda. You know what makes you happy? But God says, no, care for the orphans, care for the vulnerable, care for this is what we're commanded to do. And it isn't really optional. And so when we do what he calls us to do, it's really a matter of trust that he knows what's best for us.
And actually the benefits and the rewards and the fulfillment that we get from that is it also benefits us. And I so I think it's really a matter of oftentimes trusting that our father knows what's best for us. And, you know, when we step into that, I mean, I know when our families stepped in to be foster adoptive parents, those are the hardest thing we've ever done.
But it's also been one of the most fulfilling things that we've ever done and has led us closer to to him.
GrazieOne of the things that you hear from friends and family when you are contemplating something like fostering an adoption, is that you that you won't have enough of yourself to go around to the children you already have, for instance. And that's a very strong argument. It was made to me on many levels and to my husband, and sometimes it felt like that.
And I'm and I'm really glad we didn't listen from your experiences and your own personal experiences, but also from from Possum Trot and that beautiful story. How is there enough of parents to go around when when you're when you're thinking of sharing your love and your beautiful family with someone else?
Rebekah WeigelYeah. And we addressed that some in the film because that definitely was an issue with the Martin family, too, as you know, Just, you know, in any family that steps in and decides to bring children into their home. And, you know, I think some of it is how we parent our children. You know, if if we've bought into the ideals of the American dream of like, I want my child to have everything.
I want my child to have their own space and their own room, and it's about my child. But I think really for us, we had to really guide our children towards the gospel, which is, you know, giving up everything, laying their lives down, learning to serve others. And what better place to teach your children how to lay their life down and love other people and love our enemies?
I mean, we're called to love our enemies. So, you know, there was conversations we had to have with our own children when these new children came into their family. And honestly, at times where it was difficult and you know, they felt threatened. And but if we're called to love our enemies, then to teach our children to love children that are coming from hard places in broken places, and to give up their lives to serve and to care for them, too, and to pray for their siblings, that they would be healed.
And, you know, it's been wonderful for our children and it was hard for our children. But all of our children now, you know, they're a lot of them are grown and leaving the house and and they're coming back and thanking us now and saying thank you for doing this, thinking that I had to learn how to how to love and how to serve others as a result of this process.
GrazieThat's hard for people to understand right? Even though our youngest daughter is 16 and people still, when they when they meet her and they meet our family, they say, well, were the other children very upset when you brought her home? Was that very difficult for them? Do they resent her? And my husband and I just sort of look at them with our eyes crossed in a sense, because it's so far away from our experience.
And even though there were there were difficulties, the what we gave to the children was so much greater. And and they they appreciated to their they're able to articulate that how it opened up their hearts and minds.
Rebekah WeigelIt's great. You know that was our experience as well.
GrazieIn the at the end of the film, Reverend Martin's dream of every child having a family comes true and he goes to a payphone to call social services to look for more children. And they tell them that there's not a single foster child within a hundred miles of possum trot that needs a home. That's that's something that all of us could or could hope to attain in our own in our own towns, isn't it?
Rebekah WeigelYes. I mean, I really think of every church across America. I mean, we have churches on every corner of every church in America really just took responsibility for vulnerable kids and families right there in their community. And, you know, we could clear out the foster system, you know, from providing support and wrapping around some of the families to keep kids from going into care.
We're partnering with a organization called Care Portal that's growing across the nation to help, you know, churches connect directly to the needs of vulnerable kids and families in their community so we can keep kids from going into the system. But we also need foster adoptive families to step forward, to foster for short term placements and long term, and just really getting every church in America involved.
And hopefully that starts with coming to theaters on July 4th, bringing your church, bringing your community and your family and friends and saying it's time that we address the foster crisis in America. We can do this.
GrazieWell, thank you so much, Rebecca Weigel. You're the writer of the new film opening on July 4th called Sound of Hope, The story of Possum Trot. I hope that all our listeners will do as she suggested. Calm yourselves, bring friends, bring your whole church and be inspired to be be the solution to to the worst possible problem one can think of, which is children's suffering.
So thank you, Rebecca.
Rebekah WeigelThank you so much for having me on today. I appreciate it.
GrazieEvery morning, the Catholic Association reviews all the latest news and sends our subscribers a carefully curated collection of the most important news of the day. Items are specifically selected for a smart Catholic audience like you don't let the world take you by surprise. Subscribe to our daily media roundup at the Catholic Association's dot org. And now Father Roger Landry offers us, as is customary, a short and inspiring homily to prepare us for this Sunday's gospel.
Fr LandryThis is Father Roger, a leader, and it's a privilege for me to be with you as we enter into the consequential conversation the original Lord Cheese wants to have with each of us this Sunday as we encounter him, work two dramatic miracles. Both were the result of journeys people made to him. The first when a synagogue official named Jairus came to Jesus and dropped down before him.
In the second one, a woman with a hemorrhage made a trip along the ground just to touch Jesus. Close. As the church in the United States continues to make its four part Eucharistic pilgrimage to Indianapolis, where the national Eucharistic Congress will take place starting July 17th. It's important for us to ponder the pilgrimage. Each of us is called to make similarly to come to Jesus.
Let's begin with the miracle of healing, of the hemorrhaging woman. This miracle is literally one of the most touching of all the cures Jesus accomplished. Jesus is on his way with Jairus, the synagogue leader, to care for his daughter, who at the time was on the point of death. So Mark tells us that a large crowd was following Jesus and pressing in on him.
This happens in almost any big crowd. People are bumping into each other left and right. Yet in the midst of all of that commotion on the move, Jesus is touched in a different way by this anonymous woman. And Jesus immediately knew that he was touched differently. The suffering woman believes that if she could just touch the tassel of Jesus garment, she would be cured.
She was not to be disappointed. Jesus, upon feeling, has healing power go out. In response to her, faith stopped and asked, somewhat remarkably, Who touched my clothes? It would be like an ambulance driver speeding to attend to a911 call. All of a sudden heard a faint, friendly tap of the horn and then slammed on the brakes, trying to find out who was trying to say hello.
Jesus totally stopped. And to the confusion, concern of Jairus began to ask who had come into contact with the Hammer, this tunic. It shows how big the crowd must have been banging into him, that he didn't have any idea who it was, or see the woman approaching to touch the edge of his garment. Who touched my clothes? He asked repeatedly.
Jesus never interested, merely working miracles of bodily healing. Those were always a prelude to the greater miracle of healing souls. And that healing happened. It happens to a personal relationship with him. That's why he never worked. Mass meal, mass miracles of healing, but always cured people one by one because he wanted to have that personal bond. So Jesus wanted to meet and enter into relationship with the person he had just physically cured.
After Jesus questioned the woman approach with fear and trembling, fell down before him and told him everything, including how she had shot to pickpocket a healing miracle from him without his knowledge. She was afraid not just because the stops she had caused years to make was going to prove fatal For the daughter of the understandably impatient, powerful synagogue leader.
But because by her touching Jesus with her effusion of blood, she was making him ritually impure according to Jewish ceremonial law and incapable without ablutions of entering the synagogue. That ritual impurity meant that she had been suffering not only physically for 12 years, but also socially and religiously because of her bleeding. She couldn't touch anyone. It was basically cut off from human contact.
She was, in a sense, cut off from God by not being able to enter the synagogue. She probably thought that Jesus and everyone else with whom she would have come into contact trying to get to Jesus would have been furious with her. But Jesus would address all those problems. He spoke to her, attended tenderly, called her daughter, and said, Your faith has made you well, go in peace and be healed of your disease.
He made the miracle public so that she could be restored totally to the community, to the worship of God, to her relationship with God in the flesh. The miracle of the healing of Jairus. His daughter likewise began with a touch. Jairus the leader of the Capernaum synagogue, where Jesus was already becoming controversial, didn't care if the rabbis and the members of the community would criticize him for reaching out to Jesus was already highly suspect in their eyes.
It was no longer welcome in their synagogue. Jairus loved his daughter too much to care about his career. With fatherly abandon, he ran up to Jesus, threw himself at his feet, doubtless grabbed on to them in a saint, Mark says, begged Jesus repeatedly to come to lay his hands on his daughter, that she might get well and live.
Jesus knew that there was a power to Jesus hands, to his healing touch, and he wanted his daughter to feel it. And at the end of the scene, after she had died, everyone was mourning her death the way anyone would weep uncontrollably at the death of a child. Jairus would see that Jesus healing touch was even more powerful than he had imagined.
Even more miraculous than he had just witnessed with the hemorrhaging woman Do not fear, Jesus told Jairus, only believe. And Jairus did both. When Jesus arrived at the house after the little girl had died, he took her by the hand, touched her and said, Little girl, arise. In Greek, the verb is the same word used to describe Jesus resurrection.
Like in Michelangelo's famous scene of the creation of Adam in the vault of the Sistine Chapel, when God stretches out his hand to instill life into Adam. So Jesus touch brings back life into this little girl. I am the resurrection of life, Jesus said elsewhere in his touch contains within it that resurrection, that life, that total restorative power, the miracle of raising this little girl from death to life was meant to show what Jesus wants to do for all of us in this world and forever.
The question for you and me is whether in our life we humbly reach out to touch Jesus with the faith of Jairus and the woman with the 12 year hemorrhage. Do we just bump into him like all those following in the crowd who, even though they were coming into physical contact with Jesus, receiving none of his healing and transformative power during the national Eucharistic revival, It's important for us to ask when we come to mass and approach to receive Jesus in Holy Communion, do we do so with faith, knowing that we're touching far more than half of his garment, but receiving his whole body blood, soul and divinity within to recognize we're receiving the same
Jesus whose feet gyrus grasped, receive and routinely, without or without reverence, with hands or souls in need of cleansing. Do we make the effort to come to receive him even each day and to pray to him and the dialog that constitutes Eucharistic adoration? Do you approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, knowing that he likewise wants to reach out and touch us, that just like he did with Iris's little girl, he wants to lay his hands on us, as he does on the day we're baptized, as he does in the sacrament of joining the sick as he does through the raised hands of the priest, giving God's forgiveness and the sacrament of penance whereby he was
the resurrection of life, wants us to share in his triumph over sin and death, to allow him to transform us in such a way by our contact with him in prayer, especially in the prayer before him in the Holy Eucharist. So that week in turn can become the hands of a mystical body burning with his desire to reach out and heal a wounded world in which so many are bleeding.
But so many, including kids, are dying physically and spiritually because they're not in a life changing relationship of faith with him. Who is the resurrection? The way the truth and the life as we prepare on Sunday to act on his words do not fear, just believe and proclaim with fervor our profession of faith to get ready to fall on our knees before him as he enters not Jairus his house in not only the house of God, but enters under the roof of each of us and makes us a true temple.
Let us ask him for the grace to arise to be raised up to the fullness of life with him, both individually and as a family of faith that filled with a contagious amazement. Like all those injuries, his house after the miracle. Others in seeing our all might hunger to follow us, and the pilgrimage to where the Eucharistic Jesus wants to touch and change them to Jesus indeed rescued us and will rescue us again.
He loves us too much to leave us in the pit, hemorrhaging and dead. He reaches out to us each day in the Holy Eucharist. Let us reach back, make the journey necessary to embrace him and receive His grace, never to leave that restorative touch. God bless you.
GrazieThank you so much, Father Landry. To hear more of Father Landry's homily, please visit Catholic preaching income and to follow him on the Eucharistic pilgrimage route dedicated to Saint Elizabeth Seton, please visit Seton pilgrimage stories. And with that, we leave you for our prayers for a wonderful week for you and your families.