By Jill Ragar Esfeld
OVERLAND PARK — “I think it’s very natural for any parent to wonder how they will love another child,” said Elizabeth Kirk. “And then they find that love doesn’t work that way.
“It isn’t exclusive. It’s exponential.”
When Elizabeth and her husband, Catholic Education Foundation executive director Bill Kirk, moved here recently, they had just adopted their fourth child, Nicholas.
Once settled in their new parish, Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, plans were made for Nicholas’ baptism.
To encourage Catholic married couples to be generous in their openness to life, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann offers to baptize any child who is at least a couple’s third.
The Kirk family took him up on his offer.
“We were just so touched and flattered,” said Bill.
The event, accompanied by the chanting of the Community of the Lamb, was indicative of all the good they’ve found so far in their new home.
“It’s such a faith-filled archdiocese,” said Bill. “I’ve been struck by how expressive the schools are of our Catholic faith.”
The family was especially touched by the archbishop’s homily.
“Although I didn’t get to catch all of it because the baby was fussy,” said Elizabeth, “he beautifully wove together the role of the family in educating the child.”
At one point, when Nicholas wandered away from his parents and tried to climb onto the altar, Archbishop Naumann suggested his behavior might indicate a future vocation to the priesthood.
“And then, he made a comment that the family is the first seminary,” recalled Bill. “And we were just so touched by that.”
From the time Bill and Elizabeth decided to marry, they knew they wanted a family.
“We were open to life,” said Elizabeth. “However children came into our home, we were happy to welcome them.”
They adopted their first three children as infants. William is now 9; Benedict is 8; and Alice is 6.
They felt their family was complete, but their hearts remained open.
“We agreed that if God dropped a baby in our laps,” said Bill, “we would welcome him or her into our life.
“This situation was most certainly a baby being dropped into our laps.”
Indeed, Nicholas entered the Kirk’s family circle through their involvement in Safe Families for Children, an organization in Florida, where they lived before moving here.
The program matches parents in crisis with host families who volunteer to temporarily care for the children.
“We were asked to assist a family that was the foster parents for Nicholas,” explained Bill. “We were doing respite care for them over the weekend or when they were on vacation.”
When circumstances led to Nicholas being available for adoption, the Kirks felt he was already part of their family.
“This was all around the time that we were considering coming up here,” said Bill. “We feel it was inspired and had God’s hand all over it.”
Because adoption has brought so much joy to the Kirk family, they are ardent advocates of promoting the practice, especially to women considering abortion.
“Abortion is the end of a story,” added Elizabeth. “Adoption is the beginning of a beautiful family.”
With children so close in age, there’s never a dull moment in the Kirk household.
“Sometimes we joke about the three older kids feeling like triplets,” said Bill.
And now they’ve added a 2-year-old to the mix.
“Suddenly, we were jumping back into baby gates and the like,” said Elizabeth. “He’s so loved by his brothers and his sister; he so quickly became part of our family.”
Nicholas’ siblings, who have been through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, understood the significance of his baptism and were thrilled to be part of the sacrament. “One line the archbishop said really stuck with my kids,” recalled Elizabeth. “He talked about how the baptism day was the most important day of Nicholas’ life.”
As Nicholas was welcomed into the Catholic faith, his mother reflected on the beauty of adoption as it relates to the mystical body of Christ.
“Adoption really emphasizes that all of us are one family,” she said. “We are brothers and sisters.
“I don’t want to diminish the importance of biology, but it’s not all there is to say about human love.”
Bill and Elizabeth are often congratulated on their choice to adopt. But to them, the rewards are immense.
“It’s true they all needed a mother and a father,” said Elizabeth. “And we were able to give them that gift.
“But we are the ones who are extraordinarily blessed.”