Thirteen-month-old Simon Callen knows how to command attention
in a room — his toothy grin and sideways lean instantly charm visitors.
providence would have it, Simon came into the lives of Steven and Liz
Callen through prayer and an unlikely connection through the permanent
diaconate program. In a whirlwind of about three months, the Callens
went from adoptive candidates to parents. After they got the news they’d
been matched, Steven Callen ran to the store to purchase a car seat.
“That’s when it hit me — wow, we’re bringing a baby home,” he said.
Callens, who attend St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in south St. Louis,
are one of six couples who received a grant from the Archbishop Robert
J. Carlson Adoption Fund this year. The fund provides financial
assistance to couples who wish to adopt and is supported in part by the
Annual Catholic Appeal.
Not long after they were married, knowing
they were experiencing infertility, the couple applied with Good
Shepherd Children and Family Services to adopt a child. Steven Callen is
studying to become a permanent deacon — he didn’t know any of the guys
in his class, but slowly opened up to a few of them about their plans to
adopt. One of his classmates suggested a 30-day prayer to St. Joseph —
after all, the saint is an adoptive father. The Callens took up the
In the meantime, they attended an event for deacon
candidates and their wives. Arriving late, they squeezed in at the last
two open spots at a table. During the course of the evening, they opened
up about their adoption story to a deacon classmate and his wife seated
next to them. What they didn’t know, though, was that God’s
providential hand was working at that moment.
One evening not long
after, Steven Callen received a message from Deacon Dale Follen,
diaconate formation director. It was about a month after the Callens had
finished their prayer to St. Joseph.
“He said it wasn’t anything serious, but when I had a chance, to give him a call,” he said.
recalled his formation director telling him, “‘Steven, I don’t want to
get your hopes up or anything, but I have received a phone call about a
potential child who is going to be placed for adoption who was born
today. I heard that you and Liz were looking to adopt a child.’ He
wanted to know where we were in the process and if he could help
facilitate this for us.”
As it turns out, the couple the Callens
were seated next to at the event knew the birthparents, who were going
to place the child for adoption. “Very few people know that we were
looking to adopt,” Callen said. “But as it happens, that couple knew.”
Ecstatic and nervous, the Callens met the birth parents at the hospital.
Liz Callen recalled it, “It was a room filled with anxiety and sort of
sadness, too,” she said. “But I feel like by the end of it, the whole
energy had changed in the room. I knew they were in vulnerable
situation, so I laid it out why we were in our situation, and I think
that really helped.”
The Callens learned about the Archbishop
Carlson Adoption Fund through their case manager at Good Shepherd. The
grant was established by the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family
Planning as a way to support families seeking to adopt. Since its
inception, the fund has awarded more than $149,000 in grants for
adoptions of 32 children.
Steven Callen, who is more than halfway
through his formation for the permanent diaconate, said he sees the
possibility of weaving their experience of adoption and infertility into
his future ministry as a deacon and helping to promote the support
offered through the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning.
when I’m ordained a deacon … obviously I will be in a parish,” he said.
“But given that we have struggled with infertility and we have that
experience, I think this could be helpful for others to learn about.”
>> Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund
Since 2009, 29 families have received awards impacting 32 children
(including one set of triplets and one double adoption from China)
• In 2018, six families received grants totaling $35,000
• Total amount given in grants since 2009 is $149,790
Money is raised through private donations, funding from the Annual
Catholic Appeal, Knights of Columbus, and a Cardinal baseball ticket
raffle sponsored by Mercy Hospital St. Louis
Apply for a grant
Applications are available online at www.stlouisreview.com/bW5
or by calling the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning at
(314) 997-7576. Applications are due by Nov. 1 each year, and grants are
awarded the following year at a special blessing on the feast of St.
Joseph (March 19).
is a ministry of the archdiocesan Office of Natural Family Planning
that provides support to couples experiencing infertility. The next
meeting is Wednesday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. An annual Mass takes place
in February. The NFP Office also has a Facebook page with resources at