St. Gabriel the Archangel’s ministry supports foster and adoptive families
By Jeff Miller
Special to The Texas Catholic
McKINNEY — A member of Catholic Charities Dallas congratulated members of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church for having what appears to be the only parish ministry in the diocese that provides support to foster and adoptive parents.
For one of the organizers of St. Gabriel’s Children Care Coalition — or C3 — the accolade made her heart sink.
“What we’d like to do is encourage other parishes to start their own foster/adopt ministry,” said Brenda Nelson, who has two biological children and two adoptive ones. “I honestly think I would be asking for an hour a month. If they can gather maybe a couple other people in their parish and they actually start a real ministry, that’s great.”
That’s what happened about four years ago at St. Gabriel when another parishioner with experience as a foster parent, Susie Hughes, approached Father Don Zeiler with the idea of starting the ministry.
“I looked at what the Church was doing for the unborn,” said Hughes, still C3’s leader. “We saved them from abortion, but what were we doing for them once they got here?”
And the pastor’s response?
“This is wonderful,” Father Zeiler recalled. “It was kind of a gap in our ministry. What do we do with children that are needing some kind of help? I thought, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ ”
The focus of the coalition is the parents, who often face significant challenges in making a loving home for one or more children who weren’t adequately provided for in their birth homes. Consider the two teens who came through Hughes’ home: One was left homeless after his single mother moved in with her boyfriend. The other, 15 years old, intervened when his father was physically abusing his mother. When police arrived, the mother had the son arrested. He returned home to find his belongings strewn across the front lawn.
For foster or adoptive parents, a relatively simple scenario such as using a babysitter is more complicated because of legal issues. That’s one of the areas in which St. Gabriel’s C3 helps.
When parishioners Emma and Will Hyde tried to welcome multiple young foster children into their home, they struggled to identify someone who would serve as a backup caregiver.
“There’s people that, as soon as you say you’re a foster parent, it’s kind of like, ‘ ….. Oh!’” Hyde said. “There was absolutely no one who would do it. It just killed our application. So it sat there for a year until we came across Susie. C3 stepped up. It allowed us to actually be foster parents.”
Even the effort at St. Gabriel got off to a tepid start. Before launching the ministry in February 2017, Hughes organized a rosary for abused and foster children.
“I frequently sat there and said the rosary out loud by myself,” Hughes said. “When I got two or three, I was thrilled.”
The team’s eight current members minister to four families within the parish. C3’s support for foster and adoptive parents includes occasional transportation and meals, holding support meetings plus regular encouragement and prayers.
“Someone to help watch your kids for 20 minutes so you can pick up your other kids,” Hyde said.
One parishioner handed out little gift baskets to the families. Once pandemic constraints are lifted, there are plans for a regular “respite night” at the parish to provide babysitting for an evening.
Karla Schumacher is a former single foster mother of two, each since adopted, and continues on the team.
“I wanted to be able to give back,” Schumacher said. The ministry was particularly helpful to her when she was a foster parent because she had no relatives living close by to pitch in.
Nelson said the ministry’s proudest moment was when one St. Gabriel family said they would not have been able to be foster parents without C3’s support.
Seeing other parishes provide similar services beginning this month would be especially gratifying for St. Gabriel’s C3 team. May is National Foster Care Month. Hughes and Nelson will gladly help anyone interested.
“If you can’t be a foster parent,” Nelson said, “one of the best ways to help abused and neglected children is to support a foster parent.”