The Catholic Church has always held a pro-life stance. So, it is not a surprise that many families of AMU students provide loving homes for children whose biological parents are unable to take care of them. Over the four years that I have studied at Ave, I have become friends with several students who are adopted or have siblings who are adopted. I, myself, have an adopted sister and brother. Although he was much younger than my adopted sister, my brother moved in with us first when he was just three years old, making him the youngest and only boy to five older sisters. About a year and a half later my adopted sister, who was fourteen at the time, joined our family as well.
Even though my parents had considered adoption, neither of my siblings were adopted through agencies; it was truly God’s hand that brought the opportunity to us. As with any big change, the adjustment to our growing family was not without its bumps and difficulties. However, witnessing my parents’ openness to God’s will, and being a part of that adjustment was a truly beautiful experience. Seeing my parents’ acceptance when they thought it would not work out as well as when it did was a wonderful example of humility and what it truly means to live out the Church’s teaching to be humbly open to life.
The addition of my adopted siblings to our family taught me that being “pro-life” means much more than merely being against abortion. The words “pro-life” say nothing about Roe vs. Wade and everything about our attitudes toward all issues concerning life and our intrinsic dignity. While abortion is certainly a grave issue, Christ calls us to defend all life, whether that be an unborn baby, a struggling mother, a homeless person on the street, an elderly friend, a neighbor, and even the child whose mother is unable to take care of him or her personally. Rarely is Christ’s call to action easy, and adoption never is, but the reward is truly priceless. Adding another child to your family is always a huge alteration to a family, even more so when that child is coming with their own emotional baggage or ideas about how a family should function. However, on the other side of that is the beautiful opportunity to learn about another person’s life in a very extraordinary way. It gives the opportunity to incorporate their mannerisms, likes, and dislikes into your life as well as yours into theirs. Not only did my parents set an example for my sisters and I through their openness and acceptance but the experience of integrating another sibling’s life, background, and culture into our family is something that makes us unique and has bonded us together in a distinctively beautiful way.
Ave Maria has many families who are wonderful testaments to this attitude of openness to life. They have answered God’s call to counter the culture of death in our world by giving a child a loving home and teaching him or her that they too were purposefully chosen and wanted, deserving of authentic love. Even though my family quarrels just like any other, I will always feel privileged to be a part of a family that has taken on this extraordinary mission so personally.
I was born on January 7, 1996, in Volgograd, Russia. It was truly a blessing to be born on January 7th, because it is the day in which Russian Catholics celebrate Christmas. Just like God gifted his Son to us on that first Christmas day, He gave me the gift of life. I was born to an unwed 19 year-old girl, a girl about my current age, who chose life. As I look back, some people may say that I had a somewhat challenging start to life. I was born with a condition called congenital disarticulation of the left shoulder, which means I was born without my left arm. My birth mother also made the difficult decision after my birth that I would have a better life through adoption. I then came down with pneumonia one month later and spent the next four months as an infant in the hospital.
However, the start of my life was actually a blessing because God was always there with me and I believe had special plans for me. Despite being born with one arm, I later learned that He gave me so many other beautiful gifts that have allowed me to accomplish so much while also being able to use those gifts to inspire and benefit others. More importantly, I know that God had also already planned for my adoption, identifying a loving couple almost halfway across the globe in Avon, Ohio who He intended were meant to be my parents. I was about nine months old when my parents first learned about me and started the process to adopt and bring me home.
On July 18, 1997, when I was 18 months old, my parents, John and Anne Tkacik, adopted me in Volgograd. July 18th became my second special day as my parents began celebrating this day as “Family Day,” a day I view as another Christmas because the adoption was truly another loving gift from God. He could not have found a better or more loving and caring couple than my parents. They were always there to support, guide and encourage me, cheer me on and provide a much-needed hug when things did not go my way. They also showed me the special gifts God had given me and taught me that, rather than dwelling on what I may be lacking, it was more important to spend my time enjoying life by focusing on the many benefits that have been bestowed upon me and using those gifts to inspire others to do the same. But I was truly blessed because they raised me in a loving home based on a strong commitment to the Catholic faith and prayer, and always reminded me that with Jesus as my best friend, I can achieve anything.
Now, more than 19 years after my adoption, I am a junior at Ave Maria University in Florida, and preparing for another Christmas with my family and my twenty-first birthday. As I reflect on my life during this Christmas season, I realize how God has truly blessed me. It started with a birth mom who believed in life and who made a difficult decision, based on love, to rely on God for the care of her daughter through adoption. God’s blessing continues today because He has given me such a caring family through the adoption, who has shown me nothing but unconditional love. I only need to look into my parent’s eyes to understand God’s blessing and see His unconditional love for me as well.