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Steven and Liz Callen adopted Simon in 2017. The Callens received a grant from the Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund, which is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Steven and Liz Callen adopted Simon in 2017. The Callens received a grant from the Archbishop Robert J. Carlson Adoption Fund, which is supported by the Annual Catholic Appeal.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org | twitter: @aeternusphoto

Through an unlikely connection with diaconate program, couple fulfills dream to adopt a child

Diaconate candidate Steven Callen and wife, Liz, receive grant from Archbishop Carlson Adoption Fund

Thirteen-month-old Simon Callen knows how to command attention in a room — his toothy grin and sideways lean instantly charm visitors.

As 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.

The 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 suggestion.

Steven and Liz Callen played with their son, Simon. Steven Callen is in formation to be a deacon, and a connection with another diaconate candidate provided an opportunity to adopt Simon in 2017.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org | twitter: @aeternusphoto
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.

Callen 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.

As 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.

“Hopefully 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).

Infertility support

Enkindle 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 stlnfp.


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