For Joanne and Daniel Tarrant of Newtown, Christmas 2008 was
They celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ with the adoption of
twins in the East African nation of Uganda. Nya Mary Grace and
John Paul Kato, 20 months old, now are members of the Tarrant
The official adoption did not happen on Christmas Day. It took
weeks of working with the Ugandan High Court. However, the first
time the Tarrants saw the twins was Christmas Eve.
"They left for Uganda on Dec. 22 and arrived the morning of Christmas
Eve," explained Father Joseph J. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Vincent
de Paul Parish in Richboro, where the Tarrants are members. "Father
Joseph (Sserugo) met them (at the airport in Entebbe) and drove
them the five hours to Ibanda and they saw the twins before Christmas
"Before Joanne and I were married, we had actually discussed
international adoption and both of us were very open to it,"
Daniel said. "It just seemed like something God may have had
in store for us. After being married for over three years, we
began to pursue adoption seriously." Unable to conceive, the
Tarrants focused on adoption around Christmas in 2007.
"It was always in our hearts to adopt from Uganda, but on a practical
level it seemed impossible," Daniel said. "However, God kept
nudging our hearts and then later really confirmed His work in
a powerful way, so who were we to say no? Really, all we did
was say yes to God, and Jesus did everything else. I truly mean
Uganda is a poor country beset with political violence. "The
poverty in Uganda is astounding," Daniel said. "You can't really
believe that people exist like that. It is humbling."
Father McLaughlin and Father Sserugo are central figures in this
story of love and commitment.
In 1998, Father Sserugo, a Ugandan and priest of the order the
Apostles of Jesus, first came to St. Vincent de Paul on a missionary
appeal for a diocese in El Obeid, Sudan. According to Father
McLaughlin, the parish began a relationship with Father Sserugo,
who would return to St. Vincent de Paul each summer.
"It was the parish's contribution to the universal Church," Father
Father Sserugo was transferred to Ibanda, a district of Uganda,
where he founded the St. Charles Lwanga Parish in Bubaale. "He
would e-mail articles about his work," said Father McLaughlin.
"One summer our youth group came back from a service week in
Connellsville, Pa.," he said. "Father Sserugo celebrated Mass
and commended the group. He said to them, Why not go to Uganda?"
The following summer 17 people - adults and young people - made
The group was attracted to the Ibanda Babies Home, an orphanage
in the parish.
"They were impressed with the work of the sisters (led by Sister
Christine, the director of the orphanage) and edified by the
generosity and joy of the people," Father McLaughlin recalled.
Joanne Tarrant, 30, a graduate of Cabrini College who teaches
Spanish in Lambertville, N.J., and Daniel, 34, a graduate of
La Salle University who is a youth minister at his parish and
a theology teacher at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster,
talked to members of the youth group, coordinated by Charles
Ormsby, about Uganda.
"On Joanne's birthday they prayed that the Lord would give them
children," Father Mclaughlin said. This turned out to be a significant
The pastor, later in conversation with Sister Christine at the
orphanage, found out that twins had been brought there on Joanne's
birthday (Aug. 4, 2007) by an elderly woman. The brother and
sister, about two weeks old, had been left with the woman by
"After laying the initial groundwork of discovering if we could
even adopt from Ibanda Babies Home in Uganda, we filed our first
official paperwork at the end of June 2008," Daniel said.
The Tarrants' work with a lawyer in Kampala, Uganda, culminated
with their Christmas Eve arrival in Ibanda.
The adoption took place in Kampala on Jan. 28, 2009, with help
from Sister Christine, who had to take a 10-hour roundtrip bus
ride to Ibanda to pick up the necessary papers.
The Tarrants and the twins returned to the United States on Feb.
Late in February, St. Vincent de Paul held a welcoming ceremony
for the twins at Sunday Mass. The parish has contributed moral
and financial support to the Tarrant Adoption Fund, Father McLaughlin
"It's just that it's the right thing to do," he said. "A lot
of neat things are happening. All we do is sow the seeds. Then
the Holy Spirit takes care of it."
"The twins' tribal names are Kato, the youngest of twins, and
Nyangoma, the oldest of twins. The sisters baptized them John
and Mary," Daniel said.
"We wanted, first of all, for God to be at the heart of our adoption,"
he said. "And, secondly we wanted to fill as great a need as
That need was found in Uganda.
Daniel's mother, Mary Tarrant, a member of Nativity of Our Lord
Parish in Warminster, is acting as "grandma daycare" for the
"I know what it is like to love a wife and children in a third
world country and feel so helpless and so fully dependent on
God," Daniel said. "And I have come to see Jesus in the faces
of people for whom it is hard to have hope. It is humbling and
horrifying, and yet a gift at the same time. It makes me realize
how blessed I am."
Jim Gauger is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside,
and a freelance writer.
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