Anna, Giacomo and little Marco

"The promise that God has kept"

Anna and Giacomo got married in 2010 but children did not come. Today they tell their story, a difficult path that led them to adoption. From the March issue of Tracce.
Maria Acqua Simi

"He who made man has also made him a promise," writes Fr. Giussani in the fifth chapter of The Religious Sense. It is a concise phrase that seems to perfectly describe the life of Anna and Giacomo, Marco's adoptive parents. She is a teacher at the Sacro Cuore high-school in Milan, he has long been involved in publishing and documentaries. They got married in 2010, after graduating with a degree in Literature at the Catholic University in Milan. Anna recounts that beginning: “It was February 6: we were 26 and 27 years old and had a great desire to create something beautiful together, certain that what we were starting was not exclusively our own work. The phrase we chose for our wedding invitation was from St Paul's letter to the Philippians: 'I am confident of this, that the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion’.” That is how our conversation with them began, one night after they had put their children to sleep: with the desire to understand whether God really does keep his promise.

"It was not clear to us right away, we could not have imagined what came afterwards. We wanted to start a family, but the children did not come. They were hard years because we had a great desire that was not fulfilled. But they were also years of decisive friendships that enriched our relationship. That time was an opportunity to understand what it means, for example, that a husband and wife are already a family.” Anna was a river in flood: "The other day in class, I was talking about The Wizard of Oz with the sixth-grade students. The protagonists of the book, who are a rather curious group, are together because each of them lacks something: the Tin Man lacks a heart, another lacks a brain, another lacks courage. And that lack first becomes the desire for a path and then, indeed, their path. For us it was a bit like that. From 2010 to 2018, it is as if that wound had dictated our yes.”

Anna let her husband talk, something they both did throughout the evening. They waited, they listened to each other, they corrected each other. They complete each other. “Perhaps the hardest thing, what made us suffer the most during those years – and it is something in which we helped each other a lot – was transforming the doubt into a question, as a song by Claudio Chieffo says. Because at times the thought crept in that God had forgotten his promise: how is it possible that we cannot enjoy this desire for motherhood and fatherhood?" Giacomo described that period very well: "They were questions that emerged at times in an unhinged manner. The fortune, the grace we had was that of being within a fraternity, inside the companionship of the movement that is still expressed today in very specific faces. Like that of Fr. Francesco, with whom we have been friends since university, but also those of parents older than us, who we know because Anna taught their children. We started going on vacation with them because we saw a composure in their being parents and spouses that we also desired.”

Giacomo spoke of difficult years: “I was open to the idea of welcoming an adopted child, because my younger sister is adopted and it is one of the most beautiful gifts I could receive. Anna, on the other hand, was more reluctant.” The fear of the wounds that adopted children often carry with them weighed on her: "I have met many adopted children, especially at school. And I was terrified by the idea of the effort that would be asked of those little ones and consequently of those who welcomed them". And then, deep down, there was the thought that perhaps a biological child might arrive sooner or later. "From that time I remember the insistence with which Fr. Francesco invited us to pray and ask that this desire for motherhood and fatherhood be realized without expecting that there would be an immediate answer to what we had in mind. On the contrary, he told us to do so because we would become more familiar with God and with Our Lady. And so it was. From that prayer came a willingness to be open.” Anna was silent for a moment, and then added, “Giacomo waited a long time, he waited for me. It is a journey we have made and are making together. In marriage, everyone has their own time. He asked me if we wanted to try adoption, but without rushing, without forcing anything.”

"The issue of waiting for the other is very real thing," added Giacomo. "For me, waiting for Anna meant learning to be discreet, because for her adoption was initially a 'no'. I learnt to accept that 'no' and to explore other avenues with her. In 2016, we met Luca Sommacal, who is now the president of Families for Hospitality. The first meeting was an aperitif at his home, with his family. From that day, we remember the total freedom in addressing even the most delicate and personal issues. We did not know Families for Hospitality, we only knew that it existed like so many other works revolving around CL. But going and meeting them was like a litmus test of my fondness for the movement. We trusted them from the beginning because that place was linked to the movement and so there had to be some good there.”

This journey of friendship led Anna and Giacomo to welcome Marco, of Nigerian origin, in 2018. “He was less than 40 days old when we met him in the hospital,” he recounted. “He was born on February 8, the day the Church celebrates Saint Gerolamo Emiliani, who is the patron saint of abandoned children. That is also why we baptised him Marco Girolamo. But it is also the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, who is African like him. It is as if everything had come full circle: the phrase we chose for our wedding card was not a scam. God truly fulfils the promise of our heart.” Giacomo's voice always remained calm, Anna's eyes teared up as she spoke of their beloved son: “Marco was nothing like we expected. We are different. But that distance that is never an emotional distance, it is that space that allows you to say every day: 'Who are you? Where did you come from? What grace, what gratitude to have you here'."

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Marco is now six years old and asks a lot of questions about the colour of his skin, the belly he was born from and so on. These are the normal questions of an adoptive child, the ones that used to terrify Anna and that no longer scare her: “I know that maybe a day will come when he will say to me: ‘You are not my mother’. I will answer him: 'But you are my son'. His wound is there, it will get bigger and bigger, but we are with him.” Marco's wound…and yours? “It is still there. Marco's and ours are two wounds, two questions that continually meet. But we have a path. The grace is that it is a path that we take together, one small step at a time, without fretting.”

Our conversation ended with a few words from Anna in which she confirmed that God has kept his promise to her. "Once a month we meet with the families of the Families for Hospitality adoption group. It is a help for us but also for our children, because they see children of all colours and backgrounds and gradually they begin to become friends, wait for each other, look for each other. A few weeks ago, we went to Linate to welcome a child arriving from Peru, the son of our friends. It was a celebration! Whenever an adopted child arrives, there is always great joy. This stems from the fact that we parents have learnt to look at them as we were looked at in turn: with esteem and love. In front of each child today we can say: I do not know who you are, where you come from, what colour your skin is or what your eyes look like, but I love you.”