“Even after a family was found for them, they stayed connected with us.”

Catholic Charities Maternity and Adoption Services aid the needs of parents facing unplanned pregnancies and also families seeking to adopt. This year, the program celebrates 100 years and hundreds of thousands of lives transformed.

Norene Chesebro, Director of Maternity and Adoption services, has been with Catholic Charities for 24 years. Her vow is to empathize with all experiences, whether it’s the birth mother making a selfless decision, or the adoptive parents giving their home, family, and life to an adopted child.

“We need to be able to walk in someone else’s shoes and find ways to be helpful to their needs,” she said. 

Services offered include confidential counseling, medical care, adoption planning, legal consultation, post-adoption services, and search and reunion services. In-person support as well as a 24-hour hotline are offered free of charge to expectant parents and their family members.

Norene said there are “wonderful stories throughout the years” that she’s watched unfold. 
“We have people who were left at St. Vincent as infants and cared for by the Sisters; then, even after a family was found for them, they stay connected with us for years,” she said.

One of the more recent stories is of the Werner family. Earlier this year, a room at the Adoption and Maternity building was dedicated to Herman and Marian Werner by their children Tom Werner, Jean Santoro (Werner), and Jim Werner. Both Tom and Jean were adopted by Herman and Marian through Catholic Charities approximately 60 years ago. Tom said the dedication and donation was made to follow the example his parents set for them.

“We came from a very middle-class family, but they always found ways to give back through money or time,” he said. “I learned from both my parents to lead by action instead of just words.”

When Tom’s parents told him he was adopted, they reinforced what Catholic Charities reminds all of its adopted children: “You weren’t just born, you were chosen.”

“You feel different after you find out you’re adopted,” Tom said. “But I never felt different in a bad way after they told me that.”

Tom said he feels confident giving to Catholic Charities because not only has he witnessed its impact in his own life but also sees it throughout Chicago.

“It’s a chance to see work in action,” he said.