Adoption Story Spans Decades of Love, Resilience, and Hope

Over the last century, Catholic Charities has touched many lives and has played a pivotal role in shaping the familial landscape in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. As we continue to celebrate our centennial, we would like to share the personal journeys of people whose lives were forever changed by the programs of Catholic Charities.

Gina holding three-month-old Liz.

December 23rd was a special day for Liz Broekman’s parents. Liz remembers how her mother Gina recounts arriving at St. Vincent’s Orphanage on Magazine Street in New Orleans in 1967 with her husband, Bobby. Watching one of the nuns enter the lobby to present them with their new daughter, they were asked what they wanted to name her. Overwhelmed with the sudden opportunity to adopt a child and not prepared to think about a name for very long, Gina blurted out the name Elizabeth.

Liz has always known she was adopted and had done intermittent research over the years but only ever came away with non-descriptive information. Although she was happy and would not change anything about her life, Liz was nearing her 50th birthday in 2017 and found herself becoming more curious about the story of her birth parents and what made Liz, well, Liz.

So, when a DNA match popped up on her account, that’s when things really started to set into motion. She matched with two people, including a first cousin. Liz decided to send a message. Within two hours there was a response:

“Hi, my name is Genon. I was born in Pascagoula. I had a cousin born in New Orleans that was put up for adoption. Was this you?” read the message.

Liz was speechless. A new world for her was about to quickly open up.

Liz connected with Genon over the phone and would learn that her mom Jackie and her boyfriend Dickie lived in Connecticut. Upon learning she was pregnant, circumstances led to the decision to give the baby up for adoption. Jackie, with the assistance of Catholic Charities in both Connecticut and New Orleans, traveled to Pascagoula to stay with family and would eventually have the baby in New Orleans. Jackie kept the birth a secret from most people for 50 years.

Numerous phone calls and emails between her birth mom and family members would culminate in a trip to Florida the following year, where Liz would finally meet her birth mother.

The day Liz and her husband arrived, she was greeted first by Sandi, then Jackie.

L to R: Liz, her birth mother Jackie Crupi Zack, cousin Genon (standing) and Aunt Sandi gathered during a trip to Florida.

“Wow, it was an out of body experience. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with her. It was not a slow motion run to each other and hug moment. We did hug and just looked at each other. We spent the rest of the evening together in the kitchen cooking some pizzas that they grew up making and that was something they always had with the family. I enjoyed spending time doing something with her that I may have done had I grown up with her,” Liz said.

“I spent a lot of time looking at her hands mesmerized that mine looked so much like hers. She later told me in private that she was very proud of me and proud that I was her daughter,” Liz added.

Liz has no regrets or resentment about the decisions her birth parents made.

“God knew my mom, Gina, needed a child. This was His way of giving my parents a child by taking the love that Jackie had for Dickie and creating a child that they could not raise. It was a gift,” says Liz.

Liz and Gina celebrate their special day, December 23rd, at the orphanage, now St. Vincent’s Hotel.

For the past few years on December 23rd, Liz and her mother Gina would celebrate their special day and even had lunch at St. Vincent’s, now a hotel, to celebrate the day she was adopted. Gina passed away just this past February, while Jackie passed away in 2019. Although she obviously wished for more time with each, she hopes to continue the annual St. Vincent’s tradition to honor the memories of two women responsible for making Liz, well, Liz.

If you or someone you know was adopted or placed a child for adoption through Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans and are interested in requesting the available background information, please contact Danna P. Cousins, LCSW-BACS, [email protected]. Counseling is also available for anyone searching and/ or reconnecting with biological relatives.