John and Ann DeJak take their oldest son, Thomas, out in front of their Richfield home and strap him into a stroller.
They make sure he’s bundled up on this brisk spring day. They also remember to take his bottle, which helps keep him calm.
He coos with delight as they head down the driveway and into the street. He flashes a big smile, then purses his lips to kiss his mother.
It’s an endearing scene, but a bit out of the ordinary — Thomas is 15 years old. Born with a condition affecting the joints called Arthrogryposis, he has limited use of his arms — he can do little more than swing them — and also has a developmental disability. His parents say he has the intellectual capacity of a 1-year-old, and that probably won’t ever change.
Despite Thomas’ need for around-the-clock care, Ann and John describe their son with joy, and say they did not waver in their desire to have more children. Seven more came after Thomas: John Paul, 14; Helen, 12; Julia, 10; Meg, 7; Joseph, 5; Anna, 3; and Francis, 1.
The family belongs to St. Agnes in St. Paul, where three of the children go to school. John is headmaster and teacher at Holy Spirit Academy in Monticello.
“We wanted a large family,” said Ann, 41. “We were hoping for many children. That was our thought from the beginning.
“[Tom’s condition] didn’t change anything, quite frankly. We didn’t even wait long until the next one came along. We were very, very open.”
Thomas’ due date was Oct. 1, the feast day of Ann’s favorite saint, St. Therese of Lisieux. Four and a half months after Thomas was born — and just three days after his release from the hospital — Ann took a pregnancy test and found out baby No. 2 was on the way.
Read more at TheCatholicSpirit.com…