By Laura Ieraci
Catholic News Service
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — Best friends, the Lopez and Santamaria families traveled together to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. And like best friends, they also share lots in common.
They are both Cuban-American. They both attend St. Timothy’s Parish in Miami. They both have large families by today’s standards, five and four children respectively. And they’re both adoptive parents, offering a witness of family, different from the thousands of other families present at the international gathering.
Their journeys toward adoption, however, somewhat differed.
Angelique and Richard Lopez experienced a period of infertility when they were first married 12 years ago, and they believed God was calling them to consider adoption.
They filled out the application forms and, about one year later, they welcomed their eldest son, Emmanuel, from Vietnam.
Nowadays, Emmanuel, 9, is big brother to four siblings, who Angelique and Richard conceived naturally: Sebastian, 8, twins Madeleine and Anabelle, 6, and Nicholas, 2.
Carmen and Alex spoke adoption before they married 14 years ago. But they only considered it more carefully years later, when they were no longer able to conceive after their first two children — Monica, 9, and Antonio Javier, 7.
Prayer led them to decide on adoption and, within six months of filling out the paperwork, they welcomed African-American fraternal twins — a boy and a girl — answering their eldest daughter’s prayer request. Now 4 years old, the twins did not travel to Philadelphia, as they were too young to join the youth congress, said Carmen.
Both families spoke enthusiastically about how adoption enriched their families.
"It has grown our family in love, not only the love we give to them but that they give to us and their two siblings and to the whole extended family," said Alex.
Carmen added that loving children who do not share their same biology has made the entire family grow in compassion.
"Sometimes because our children look so different from us, we stand out as a family," said Carmen. "It has put us on display sometimes and that can be a little difficult to deal with, but we trust God’s plans for our family."
Angelique said she and her family feel fortunate to be surrounded and supported by other adoptive families in their community.
She said other Christian churches are strong proponents of adoption and she believes the Catholic Church needs to have "stronger … prophetic voices in this arena."
"I think hesitating in adoption is very common, but I think a lot of that is born from myths about adoption," she said. "I think we need to take the time to be educated."
Both couples spoke of the need to dispel these myths, namely that it is too expensive and takes too much time, and that it is impossible to love adoptive children as one would love biological children.
Carmen said the process for her twins was "not as difficult or as daunting as people make it out to be" and that all of their costs were covered by tax credits.
Angelique pointed to another, more sensitive issue that makes some couples hesitate to adopt: the desire for biological children and among women, especially, the desire to experience the joy of carrying their own child.
"It’s natural to want to carry a child," she said. "That’s an instinct God puts within us precisely because he wants the human race to continue, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, when pregnancy becomes the ultimate goal, we lose sight of what the end goal really is, which is to be a parent to a child."
Sharing the insights of another adoptive mom, Angelique said a woman facing fertility issues will at some point have to ask herself: do I want to be pregnant or do I want to be a mom?
The answer to this question is the game-changer, she said, as it was for this woman, who later adopted.
The program of the World Meeting of Families included a session on the heartbreak of infertility but not on adoptive parenting.
Angelique Lopez and Carmen Santamaria are co-authors of "The Infertility Companion for Catholics: A Spiritual and Practical Support for Couples."
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Follow Ieraci on Twitter: @lauraier.