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Jamie and Michael LaBelle played with their daughter Gianna at their home. “It was pretty surreal those first moments holding her,” Jamie said of meeting Gianna, now almost 2 years old.
Jamie and Michael LaBelle played with their daughter Gianna at their home. “It was pretty surreal those first moments holding her,” Jamie said of meeting Gianna, now almost 2 years old.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL | ‘In love and awestruck’

The Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund helped Jamie and Michael start their family

The Annual Catholic Appeal pledge drive, originally scheduled to take place in most parishes April 18-19, April 25-26 and May 2-3, has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pledge drive will be held in parishes at a later date. Parishioners may still donate to the Appeal online at aca.archstl.org. 


For Jamie and Michael LaBelle, holding their newborn daughter in their arms for the first time was exciting and nerve-wracking. Their journey of becoming adoptive parents wasn’t easy; they had been through four previous situations in which the adoption fell through.

“It was pretty surreal those first moments holding her,” Jamie said of meeting their daughter, Gianna Sophia, now almost 2 years old. “It’s pretty hard to put into words what it felt like holding her.” The couple experienced a mixture of sheer joy, but vulnerability, knowing there was always a chance the birth mother might change her mind.

Jamie LaBelle played with her daughter Gianna at their home in St. Louis. Jamie and her husband Michael adopted Gianna thanks to the support of the NFP office and Archbishop Carlson Adoption Grant.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
“It was a total mix of emotions,” she added. “Because on one hand, you’re completely in love and awestruck with this baby, but your heart’s also breaking because you know what her birth mother must be going through at the same time.”

Jamie and Michael are among numerous couples who have received support in their journey to become adoptive parents thanks to the Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund. Established by the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning as way to financially support couples seeking to adopt a child, the fund is supported in part by the Annual Catholic Appeal. The NFP Office itself also receives support from the appeal.

Natural Family Planning has a twofold purpose: as a means to achieve or avoid pregnancy and to establish a health record that may be used by doctors to diagnose and treat women’s health issues, said K. Diane Daly, director of the Office of Natural Family Planning.

“For couples who are building a family, NFP is a great treasure for them and effective in assisting them in achieving a pregnancy,” she said. However, she noted that 80 percent of couples with infertility will not achieve a pregnancy. “The NFP provider supports and journeys with the couple as they receive medical help and also helps them in listening to God’s plan for them,” Diane said. In addition to emotional and spiritual support, the office provides a service, Enkindle, which includes free sessions with a licensed counselor.

Jamie and Michael LaBelle played with their daughter Gianna at their home. The LaBelles adopted Gianna thanks to the support of the NFP office and Archbishop Carlson Adoption Grant, both supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
Jamie and Michael completed their home study with Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, a federated agency of Catholic Charities of St. Louis. Longtime caseworker Mary Ann Hoeynck told the couple about the adoption fund and suggested they apply for a grant. The two already had a connection with the NFP Office, having attended instruction sessions to learn the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, one of several Church-approved methods of natural fertility care.

Michael said embracing NFP actually helped them to get to the adoption process quicker, as they were able to identify several factors that affected Jamie’s fertility. Jamie added that it has been “empowering to have the knowledge of what’s going on in your body.”

Jamie said that even though the couple wasn’t successful in conceiving a child, they appreciated the ongoing support of the NFP Office. “They still supported us to build our family,” she said. “They didn’t just leave us out in the cold. Our journey didn’t end there.”

How to donate

The financial goal of the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal is $14.5 million. Approximately 91 cents of every dollar raised goes back into the community in the form of direct services. The Annual Catholic Appeal pledge drive, originally scheduled to take place in most parishes April 18-19, April 25-26 and May 2-3, has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pledge drive will be held in parishes at a later date. Parishioners may still donate to the Appeal online at aca.archstl.org

To learn more about the Annual Catholic Appeal, visit aca.archstl.org.

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