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February 1, 2018

By now you’ve probably heard the story of Ryan Holets, the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Officer who, along with his wife, Rebecca, was honored during the President’s State of the Union Address on Tuesday. While pundits from both sides of the aisle continue to wrangle over other aspects of the President’s speech, it was this story that has stuck with me, because it speaks so clearly to the mission of Good Shepherd, as well as to those of some of our sister agencies within Catholic Charities.

While on duty, Officer Holets encountered a young woman, pregnant and homeless, preparing to inject heroin. When he confronted her saying that she would kill her baby, she broke down in tears. She told Holets that she’d been homeless for two years. She told him about her struggle with addiction that began in her adolescence, and she shared her hope that someone would adopt her baby and give her a better life. It was in that moment that Holets says that God called him to do something radical. Rather than arrest the woman, he showed her a picture of his wife and four children (one a 10 month old infant) and offered to adopt her baby. The young woman later said she knew in that moment that her encounter with Officer Holets was an answer to a prayer. According to Holets, he jumped in his squad car and drove a few miles away to a party his wife was attending. He shared with her what had happened, and she agreed without hesitation to adopt. There was no consideration of the baby’s heroin addiction or the almost certain lack of prenatal care she’d experienced. Likewise, there were no questions about the father or what color the baby’s skin might be. This was radical compassion born out of faith. Just in case you’re not already tearing up, they named their new daughter Hope.

A repeated theme of my prayers, especially with my staff, is for Jesus to allow us to be His eyes, heart, and hands in the world—to be His face for those in need. Clearly that happened in this story, and it happens every day at Good Shepherd as we attempt to care for frightened, desperate mothers and their babies who have nowhere else to turn—mothers impacted by violence, abuse, homelessness, traumatic loss, sex trafficking, mental illness, substance issues, and crushing poverty. It happens in foster care as we work to heal families torn apart by violence and addiction, and it happens in the brave, and life giving miracle of adoption.

Frankly, we need more families like the Holets, families called to radical compassion—to the decision to adopt children who will undoubtedly face challenges, including drug exposure or abuse. We need more men and women, like Ryan Holets, who see past outer appearance, past addiction or illness, past mistakes born out of brokenness, and see a fellow human being in desperate need of help. It’s easy to sit back and be frustrated that our God isn’t fixing things. Next time that happens to you, look in the mirror. We are the Body of Christ. We are called the be the change we seek. If you want to know how else you can help, please visit our website at www.goodshepherdstl.org or those of our of our Catholic Charities family who work every day to help troubled youth (Marygrove), victims of domestic violence (St. Martha’s Hall), women and their children struggling with addiction (Queen of Peace Center), the homeless (St. Patrick’s Center), our senior citizens (Cardinal Ritter Senior Services), those in deep poverty (St. Francis Community Services) and those struggling with mental illness (Catholic Family Services).

Yours in Christ,

Michael