On Saturday morning, Olivia received her First Holy Communion along with 53 other girls and boys in our community. She wore a white cotton dress made of fabric handcrafted in Cobán, Guatemala, and a veil her godmother, my sister, Patrice, bought for her in San Francisco.
For the past two years, Olivia has attended after-school religious education classes to prepare for the big day. Several of her classmates also attend religious ed, so Olivia never complained about going (which happens with other after-school activities). Besides, her teachers—volunteers from our church congregation—make the lessons meaningful and fun. In addition to teaching biblical history, Olivia’s teachers reinforce the message of “love one another.” In my opinion, that particular message can never be taught too many times.
The same evening, we attended the Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of good friends. Maybe because the two events were so closely juxtaposed, I was struck by their similarities. An atmosphere of closeness and good-will pervaded the congregation in each setting. Throughout each service, I felt a profound sense of connectedness, to my family and the people around me, to the world and to the universe.
As an adoptive mother, I am aware of how Olivia and Mateo—and many children who have joined their families through adoption—have lost their sense of connectedness: to their birth mothers and fathers, their foster parents, their country, and their heritage. That’s why my husband and I do everything possible to keep those ties alive. Religion is one way we cultivate a feeling of connectedness for our children. Through their experience of religion, Olivia and Mateo belong to a family larger than only ours. They are connected to the community, the world, and to the universe.