Reaching for Something More
By France Griggs Sloat
“I’m adopted,” says Katie Meyer.
Sitting cross-legged in a wooden spindle chair, Meyer begins a personal revelation that most 20-something college students could never fathom. With a blanket draped across the seat, her bare feet emerging from a pair of worn coveralls and her long, thick red hair brushing her shoulders, Meyer looks very comfortable—both in her coveralls and in her mood—as she bares her soul before a group of 35 fellow students and adult leaders. “When I turned 21, I decided to find my biological family,” she says. “I learned my mother was 17 when she had me, and my father was 24. I contacted Catholic Social Services and learned I had grandparents and a 16-year-old half sister. I was on top of the world, but then I learned my biological mother had died in 1990. She committed suicide.”
It’s a Sunday afternoon in February 2004 at the Milford Spiritual Center 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati. Meyer, a senior, is part of a group of Xavier students on the Approach Retreat. Together, they are nestled comfortably in easy chairs or sprawled with their friends on the carpeted floor of the center’s great room. The light, even on this gray winter day, seeps in around the furniture, washes across the bookcases and fireplace, and wraps around the students. It’s enough to brighten any sour mood. The music plays, Katie talks and everyone feels something—closer, happier, connected.
“I never knew what a punch in the stomach was until I heard those words,” she says. “Then the tears came, the sobs came. I could not speak. I would never meet my mother or laugh with her or joke with her or tell her, ‘I love you.’ My grandmother wrote, ‘She loved you as only a mother could love a child.’
“But I was pissed off at God. He took away the love of my birth mother. He didn’t ever let me see her. I wondered how could a mother feel so low that she takes herself from those who love her the most? It was a huge blow to my faith life.”
The students soak up the painful revelations and incorporate them into their own lives. They’ve been here since Friday evening and spent most of their time listening, talking, reflecting and writing. They keep journals of their thoughts. They meet in prayer services where they hear directives from a Jesuit priest. They go through a process of discernment that walks them through a series of topics: self-awareness, faith, hope, forgiveness and reconciliation.
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