At 17, Moreen was a typical teenage girl in Middle Tennessee. Her head was filled with many exciting plans and dreams for her future.
One plan she was not quite prepared for, though, was a message that came to her one Sunday while in church around that time. The thought in her head, she now believes, was a calling from God. The message told her to seek out, adopt, and raise children who needed her love and protection.
At 17, it was a very confusing message. As would be the case with most girls that age, Moreen quickly dismissed the moment and went on with her life.
Over the next 30 years Moreen went to college, built a career, stayed involved with her church, helped care for nieces and nephews and fostered several children.
For some reason, though, that message about adopting that seemed so confusing more than two decades earlier never really left her. In fact, it grew stronger over time.
By her late forty's, a few years ago, Moreen's message had evolved into a calling and she was, even as a single adult, compelled to act on the call and adopt boys to raise as her own. She wasn't quite sure how, though.
It didn't necessarily seem logical, but "I knew that I had to be an active part of helping my community raise boys into men of character and quality," she shared recently.
She called a friend at Catholic Charities of Tennessee and learned about the agency's Foster to Adopt program, which places older children who are in state custody with permanent, loving families. She applied and was accepted as a prospective foster parent.
In 2012, Moreen was matched with two brothers, James (age 10) and Jauan (age 7), who desperately needed a stable home with caring adults to nurture them.
In the very early days, Moreen and the boys spent time together visiting with the assistance of a caseworker. The boys had experienced much trauma in their short lives and needed a great deal of attention and time to adjust.
Although mixed with a bit of anxiousness and uncertainty, Moreen began to know in her heart that she was making the right decision to pursue a formal, legal relationship with the boys when James and Jauan subsequently came to her home for a visit.
"Jauan went outside after touring the house and ran in circles around the backyard happily yelling, ‘I'm home! I'm home!'" she shared as tears welled in her eyes. Shortly after this visit, James and Jauan came to live with Moreen as foster children.
The adoption was finalized in 2014.
Since then, "the biggest adjustment is that my home is no longer quiet and calm," Moreen said. "It is no longer what I had become accustomed to living on my own."
However chaotic it is on some days, though, nothing could tear Moreen away from the laughter that resonates throughout the house now.
Her sons, though very different in personality and interests, make it their job to entertain Moreen with their lively stories and comical acrobatics.
Moreen has found major support from her own family, friends and the church she grew up in, where the family remains active.
Moreen, James, and Jauan are a family. That confusing message from so long ago now is crystal clear.
To read more stories about the work of Catholic Charities of Tennessee in our community, go to: http://www.cctenn.org/news.cfm and look for Spring 2015 in the left column for our most recent issue of Pathways.