Like many couples, when Bethany and Daniel Meola said “I do,” both hoped that together they would one day add to their family.
“We wanted to have children,” Bethany said. “But we figured out, as time went on, that wasn’t happening.”
It became clear to the Bowie couple after several years of trying to conceive that their plan for a family and God’s plan were quite different.
Like many Catholics, both Bethany and Daniel had grown up in families with adopted members, so when the couple was unable to conceive, they turned to adoption as a way to have a family of their own.
Adoption in the United States, and in Maryland, is not a quick, easy or affordable process. In fact, the barriers and hurdles to adoption can put it out of reach for many Maryland families.
According to Show Hope — a faith-based movement to remove the barriers to adoption through education and grants — out of every 500 families that consider adoption, only 1 will actually adopt a child, and the high cost of adoption is a primary obstacle. Show Hope advises that adoptions can cost between $20,000 and $40,000.
For the Meolas, it took more than 2 years and cost roughly $50,000 to welcome their daughter Zelie-Louise Meola into their lives, however the couple was able to recoup some of that cost through the adoption tax credit, a federal program aimed at easing the cost of adoption.
“There was definitely some sticker shock when we realized what it would cost,” Bethany said. However, she said the cost of adoption doesn’t just cover the administration provided by the state and the adoption agency, but also helps provide care for the birth parents, as well as education and outreach about adoption.
Bethany described the process of adopting like an emotional roller coaster, with ups and down and twists and turns. From being considered as the family for several children only to ultimately not be picked, to the exhaustive and detailed process to just apply and be approved for adoption, to having to travel across the country to finally meet their daughter, Bethany said hers and her husband’s eyes opened to the challenges that surround adoption. The process also deepened their relationship, bringing them closer together as a couple through the shared experience.
“It takes vulnerability to adopt,” Bethany said. “You have to be willing to let your life be examined in detail, in a way that you would not normally allow.”
To be approved to adopt, a family must complete a home study. This study can take months to complete — for the Meolas, it took 6 months — and required submitting financial documents, health records, employment records, driving records and more, as well as writing a detailed autobiography of their relationship, from how they met to their decision to adopt.
Once approved to adopt, the Meolas had to wait to be matched with a child and then wait to be ultimately chosen as the adoptive parents.
“It’s the expectant parents who do the choosing,” she said. “For us, as Christians, we believe in God’s providence, that if he had a child in mind for our family, that he would bring us together.”
And God did. After a long wait for their child, on April 6, 2017 they welcomed Zelie-Louise Meola into their lives and hearts.
The Meola Family.
Next week Maryland's House committee will hear testimony on the latest effort by out-of-state interests to pass physician-assisted suicide in Maryland. Together with the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide coalition, the Maryland Catholic Conference is asking anyone who wants to stand against this bill to show their opposition by wearing all black and attending the hearing in Annapolis on February 15.
"We choose black because it cuts to the heart of what this bill does: it legalizes assisted suicide by being prescribed a lethal fatal cocktail from a doctor or a physician; substantiating the dark and sober reality of taking ones own life," said Therese Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life at the Conference.
The House Health and Government Operations Committee will hear the bill (HB 399) on Friday, February 15 at 1:30 p.m. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear the bill (SB 311) on Tuesday, February 19 at 1:30 p.m.
If you are interested in attending the hearing in Annapolis on Feb. 15 to show your opposition to physician-assisted suicide, please contact the Conference by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stay up to date with the latest news on the effort to keep assisted suicide out of Maryland be sure to follow the coalition!
On twitter @stopPASMaryland
On Facebook @marylandagainstPAS
Or visit the coalition website at: www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org
For many, winter can be a particularly difficult time of year. To help those in the Annapolis community who struggle to stay warm, the Maryland Catholic Conference has been collecting clean, new and gently used coats as part of a drive it is calling Coats Until Crossover.
Crossover is a deadline in Maryland when all bills must pass out of the originating chamber and crossover to the opposite chamber. This session, Crossover is March 18. From now until Crossover, the Conference has a blue box on its porch where it will collect coats.
"Whether you are tidying up or refreshing your wardrobe, please consider donating your coats and help bring joy to those who struggle to stay warm, " said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference.
All coats will be donated to the Arundel House of Hope on a rolling basis.
Don't forget that Spring often requires a lighter-weight jacket to stay comfortable. Clean coats and jackets of all weights are welcome.
Thank you to everyone who has registered so far for Catholics in Annapolis on February 21! We look forward to having you all join us to advocate on behalf of the Church in Maryland.
To help you prepare for Catholics in Annapolis, each year, the Conference produces short videos on the key issues we are asking you to advocate on when you come to Annapolis.
Check out the 2019 issue videos below!
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch on Friday made good on his promise to introduce legislation that would put to the voters in 2020 a proposed amendment to Maryland's constitution that would enshrine the so-called "right" to an abortion.
However, as of late Friday, the bill (HB 1031) did not have any available language so it is unclear exactly what the bill would do or how far it would go.
“The introduction of legislation establishing a woman’s “right” to abortion by way of a Maryland constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot should be of great concern to both Maryland lawmakers and to all Marylanders," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "The introduction of this proposal follows the national agenda of the pro-abortion lobby that is also playing out in New Mexico, The Commonwealth of Virginia, and New York, which recently passed a law allowing abortion up to the time of the child’s birth."
The Conference took a stand against the concept of the amendment in August and, with only 60 days remaining in the legislative session, the Conference will work tirelessly to keep abortion out of our state constitution.
Stopping the bill in the general assembly is vital said Therese Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life for the Conference. If the bill passes and is affirmed by the voters, it would effectively prevent any future common-sense regulations on abortion or protections of life in Maryland, she said.
The Conference is asking all Catholics who want to speak up against this bill to join us on February 21 at Catholics in Annapolis. That evening you can meet face-to-face with your elected lawmakers and tell them the dangers of this bill and urge them to vote against it.
Photo credit: Illume Communications
The national sensation Cardinal Shehan Choir will perform at Catholics in Annapolis again this year.
Their renowned performance at the 2018 Catholics in Annapolis included singing their famous rendition of Andra Day's hit "Rise Up" and Louis Armstrong's famous "What a Wonderful World."
"If you missed the amazing Cardinal Shehan Choir at last year’s Catholic in Annapolis, here’s your chance. You won’t want to miss them," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Conference. "These students represent the diversity and quality of education at our Catholic schools and we cannot wait to hear them sing again."
To listen to the choir's performance at the 2018 Catholics in Annapolis CLICK HERE.
In addition to the choir's performance, the Conference is excited to announce that the Light House Bistro Catering will again cater Catholics in Annapolis. Light House Bistro Catering is a social enterprise of the Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center in Annapolis, which provides shelter, employment and opportunities to individuals experiencing homelessness.
To register for Catholics in Annapolis visit: www.catholicsinannapolis.org
Need a ride to Catholics in Annapolis? Be sure to sign up for the bus nearest you. Buses will depart from regions across the state. Visit www.catholicsinannapolis.org/buses for more information and to reserve your seat on a bus!
Maryland Catholic Conference joined with advocates from across Maryland this week to work on behalf of legislation that would provide immigrants who are victims of serious crimes — such as rape, kidnapping and human trafficking — and assist police in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, a greater ability to obtain federal U-Visa status.
"This is an important bill that works to build trust between law enforcement and our immigrant communities," said Anne Zmuda Wallerstedt, associate director of Social and Economic Justice at the Conference. The Conference supports both humane and just immigration policies and keeping our communities safe.
The U-Visa bill streamlines the process by which Maryland certifies a crime victim's petition for a U-Visa, an important part of the process for those applying for the status. To learn more about SB 144 CLICK HERE. To read the Conference's full testimony CLICK HERE.
For the fourth time in 5 years, the Oregon-based special interest group Compassion and Choices is pushing to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Maryland and the Maryland Catholic Conference is joining with its coalition partners to strongly oppose the legislation.
"Our state has repeatedly rejected this group’s agenda and with good reason: assisted-suicide threatens Maryland’s most vulnerable, putting those with disabilities, the elderly, our veterans, and those battling prescription drug addiction at grave risk," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "As Catholics we stand firm with our partners across the state to strongly oppose this legislation."
Titled the "End-of-Life Option Act" (HB 399/SB 311), the bill was introduced this week in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly and is nearly identical to legislation rejected in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by Maryland lawmakers. Hearings have been scheduled for Friday, February 15 at 1 p.m. in the House and Tuesday, February 19 at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate.
The Conference is a long-time member of the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide (MAPAS) Coalition.
"We encourage everyone who is passionate about this issue to join the MAPAS coalition, sign up for alerts and follow the coalition on social media to stay up-to-date on action on this bill," said Jennifer. "The coalition is the best resource for information on the fight against PAS and the primary voice in Maryland in opposing this predatory practice."
To learn more about Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide, sign-up for alerts and get involved, visit: www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org
Read news coverage of the introduction and the Conference's strong opposition HERE.
When Catholic leaders in Rome put out a worldwide call in 2000 to all religious communities to address the growing global scourge of human trafficking, the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary took the call to heart.
At the time, human trafficking ranked among the world’s most profitable illegal trades, behind arms and drug trafficking. Today, it still ranks among the most profitable illegal trades, and is considered the fastest growing illegal enterprise worldwide, according to Forbes magazine.
Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit, according to the Polaris Project, a U.S.-based organization that works to disrupt human trafficking networks. Trafficking involves using force, fraud or coercion to make victims engage in commercial sex or to work in inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. In total, Polaris has identified 25 unique business models of human trafficking.
Learning all they could about human trafficking, a local community of the Sisters gathered in the early 2000s at their home in Silver Spring, Md. to discuss what they could do locally to heed this call.
Sr. Carroll Ann Kemp suggested forming a coalition to involve women from other religious communities in their work against human trafficking. And more than 15 years ago, the Mid-Atlantic Coalition Against Modern Slavery — or MACAMS as it is more commonly known — was born. Today, the coalition has dozens of members from various faiths and is active in the Maryland-Washington, D.C. region.
The work of MACAMS focuses on combatting human trafficking through public education, advocacy, support of organizations that provide direct service to victims, and prayer, said Sr. Carol Ries, a leader of the group.
While MACAMS has hosted numerous information sessions on trafficking across the region and participated in many conferences and forums, perhaps the most public work of MACAMS is their prayer every other month on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring.
“We just pray silently,” said Kemp, coordinator of MACAMS. “We’re not putting brochures in people’s faces. We have little cards from the Blue Campaign telling the signs of someone being trafficked, but we wait until we’re asked for one to give it out.” The Blue Campaign is an effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its partners to combat human trafficking.
Members of MACAMS stand on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring, Md. every other month to witness and pray for the end of human trafficking.
Starting Sunday, Catholics schools across the Maryland and the United States will observe Catholic Schools Week.
First held in 1974, National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2019 is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, with daily themes for each day.
According to the National Catholic Education Association, schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.
"Catholic Schools Week is an annual reminder of the important role Catholic education plays in the lives of Maryland children and our communities," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Nearly 50,000 Maryland children learn every day in Catholic schools and that's why the Conference works diligently to ensure that their schools are supported and that families, whether Catholic or not, able to choose Catholic education."
Each year, the Conference partners with Maryland CAPE (Council of American Private Education) to welcome more than 1,000 Maryland nonpublic school students to Annapolis to advocate for BOOST scholarships and other aid. This year the Nonpublic Schools Advocacy Day will be held on March 12. To register your school, visit: www.educationmaryland.org/advocacyday