By Jourdan Reynolds
“Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother?” — Our Lady of Guadalupe’s words to St. Juan Diego
During the middle of my college career, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety and depression. Many factors contributed to my condition. I got easily stressed and overworked. I had difficulty saying “no” to people. I always wanted to please others and win their approval. These and various other issues soon began to build upon each other, until one day it just hit me all at once. It wouldn’t be until much later that I would identify the root cause.
As a Korean adoptee, I was received by my family at a mere 6 months of age. No information about my birth parents was left, or any method of contact. I only had my Korean name, Choi Young-Shik, and my “hanbok,” a traditional Korean outfit. The fact that my birth mother offered me for adoption never really bothered me until college. During this time, I was soul searching, figuring out my identity and what I wanted to be. When anxiety and depression hit me, thoughts and questions about my adoption arose. Why did my mother place me in adoption? Why didn’t she leave a way for me to contact her? I didn’t mean to ask these questions because I was ungrateful. I simply wanted to know the reasons for her actions.
My parents suggested that I pray about it, and ask God for healing and closure. They assured me of their endless support, but knew that this hole in my heart could only be filled by God. And so, I began bringing these issues up in prayer. Slowly, God began to work within my heart, telling me to discuss it further with our mother, Mary. For whatever reason, Mary’s title of Our Lady of Guadalupe attracted me the most. Maybe it was the way she spoke to Juan Diego, as a mother to a son. Or maybe it was the fact that Our Lady appeared to her humble servant as a “mestiza,” a woman of mixed race, encompassing the traits of all persons of the Americas. As I continued to ask the intercession of Our Lady, I began reading books about her. I discovered that the black ribbon around her waist signifies that she is pregnant and expecting a child. This changed everything for me.
Because Our Lady was pregnant with child, I felt ever more connected with her. She understood the reasons why my birth mother did what she had to do. What a sacrifice to give up your newborn son! I can’t imagine the level of love (and pain) it takes for any mother — or father for that matter — to willingly do so. In time, the hole I felt within my heart slowly filled up and closed. I let go of my frustration and hurt feelings and offered them to God and his mother. All the while, I placed my faith in the belief that my mother offered me up out of love and not apathy.
I hope and pray that Our Lady assures my birth mother of my well-being. How proud she would be to see what I’ve become: an adoptee from South Korea raised in the Milwaukee suburbs by a small-town Iowa family who now has a beautiful wife and 6-month-old baby boy. Not to mention, my wife’s family, my goddaughter’s family, and my son’s godparents all have their origins in Mexico, where Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared 486 years ago.
(Jourdan Reynolds is the secretary and bookkeeper at St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa.)