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November 17, 2014

One of the biggest thrills for Good Shepherd is the phenomenon of finding. We like helping kids find families; adoptive parents find kids to love; and finding ways for our foster kids and families work through tough situations. This is a story about finding.

At the most recent Golf Tournament, we found a new friend in Mark Diedrich and Mark found out his connection to Good Shepherd. Mark is a 47-year old Emergency Management Specialist with the St. Louis County Police.  As with many happy stories, his story starts on a sad note.

In 2001 Mark and his sister, Michelle, lost their father, Dave, and about a month before the Golf Tournament, they lost their mom, Fran. Soon after, as the family was going through photographs and memorabilia, Mark sensed some inconsistencies in their family history and they could not locate a key to a house safe that was thought to contain important papers. Mark returned after his mom’s funeral, found the keys, and found something else upon opening the safe – two manila envelopes marked “DO NOT OPEN UNTIL ONE YEAR AFTER MY DEATH” one for Mark and one for Michelle, signed by their dad.

Mark opened his envelope and looked through the papers. Mark said, “On one of the papers I saw the words – adopted child – and somehow knew it was me.” Mark met with his sister and put the rest of the pieces together. Michelle was Dave’s daughter from a previous marriage. Fran adopted Michelle after she married Dave and they both adopted Mark.  

The 47-year old secret now revealed led to many “findings”. Mark and Michelle found they were closer than ever. Michelle had reconnected with her birth mother about 15 years before. Mark found that Catholic Charities had assisted Dave and Fran in adopting him. Mark connected with Good Shepherd.

At the Golf Tournament dinner, Good Shepherd staffer Meaghan Westhus told her own story of being adopted through Catholic Services for Children & Youth, which is what inspired her to help foster kids and to become an adoptive mom herself. Mark Dietrich found a kindred spirit in Meaghan. We like stories about finding and more than a few Good Shepherd staff, volunteers and friends were brought to tears after hearing these two stories.

“There is still the final chapter waiting to be written,” Mark said. “It’s my hope to find my birth mother so I can thank her for the choice she made, giving me the opportunity to have life. My mom and dad, my bio-parents, my sister, Catholic Charities, the foster family that cared for me the first 6 weeks or so, all of these people deserve my undying gratitude.” Good Shepherd offers our prayers for Mark and his family and says: “Thanks for finding us.”