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The Florida Catholic

People touched by adoption look to St. Joseph in national novena


Those whose lives have been touched by adoption are turning in prayer to St. Joseph, entrusting their hopes to him as part of an annual novena.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is offering a March 10-18 novena to the foster father of Jesus, ahead of the saint's March 19 feast day.

The novena prayers, available online in both English and Spanish, have in recent years become an annual initiative of the USCCB's Respect Life project, part of the conference's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

Each day features a Scripture passage for silent reflection, as well as prayers and a petition to St. Joseph for the given intention.

The first day of the novena is dedicated to mothers who place their children for adoption, with Scripture taken from Exodus 1:22-2:6,10 in which Moses' mother saves her infant son from Pharaoh's attack by placing him in a reed basket that Pharaoh's daughter retrieves from the Nile in order to adopt the boy.

The subsequent days of the novena focus on fathers and family members who choose to place children through adoption, children waiting to be adopted, married couples pursuing adoption, adopted children, and adoptive mothers, fathers and family members.

The novena was first drafted by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley of Boston during his term as chair of the USCCB's Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said Anne Ferreira, the secretariat's assistant director for education and outreach.

"Adoption is an issue that is close to his heart, and he made that a focus during his time as chairman," she told OSV News, noting that the prayers were finalized and first published in 2016 under Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.

The novena is posted daily at 8:30 a.m. EDT on the Respect Life Facebook and X accounts. Participants also can sign up to receive the daily prayers by email or text by visiting the novena website at

In a January 2022 audience, Pope Francis described openness to adoption as "a generous … beautiful, good attitude.

"Joseph shows us that this type of bond is not secondary; it is not second best," he said. "This kind of choice is among the highest forms of love, and of fatherhood and motherhood."

Adoption statistics have declined in recent years, both domestically and globally.

According to the National Council for Adoption, an estimated 95,306 children were adopted in the U.S. in 2020, down 17% from 2019. Most of those adoptions (58%) were public, with less than half (42%) through private channels.

The council acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the reported decline. It said in its December 2022 "Adoption by the Numbers" report that the decrease in adoptions overall was "consistent" with field reports, which indicated "fewer expectant parents requesting adoption counseling and fewer placements made with involvement by agencies and attorneys."

Additionally, live births in the U.S. "dropped 4% in 2020," said the report.

The U.S. State Department's July 2023 intercountry adoption report listed 1,517 incoming children in fiscal year 2022, with 25 adoptions from the U.S. to other countries. That total is down from 1,785 the previous fiscal year.

Colombia, India and South Korea are the top countries of origin for incoming U.S. intercountry adoptions. The number of days required to complete the adoption process ranged from just under 300 (Poland) to more than 1,430 (Burkina Faso).

The State Department report also noted the impact of Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine on U.S. intercountry adoptions, as the war has halted (with limited exceptions) adoptions from Ukraine, which previously was among the top countries of origin for adoptions to the U.S.