Swords family undergoes a one-year growth spurt

The number of scabbards needed for the Swords family went from three to seven in about a year. Cory, Mary Ellen, and Connor were joined by Autumn, Ricky, and Danny in December of 2021. Their adoption was finalized in March of 2023. Calista joined the family in September of 2022. Her adoption was finalized in November of 2023. The adopted children became children of God on Sunday, Feb. 4, when they were baptized at Christ the King Church in Wichita. Fr. Devin Burns, the pastor of Christ the King and Cory’s former student, presided at the baptism. Cory teaches social studies and Coaches at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School. Mary Ellen teaches music at Christ the King Catholic School.

God answers prayers in three ways: yes, no, or he provides an alternate outcome. Cory and Mary Ellen Swords experienced the third option.

Cory and his wife will have been married 23 years on Aug. 11 and have one biological son, Connor, 15, who was born a few weeks after his parents were brought into the church during the Easter vigil in 2008.
“We tried for several years to get pregnant before we had him and then we tried for many years afterward,” he said. “After we had him God didn’t bless us with any more biological children.”

Mother, father met at a young age

Cory and Mary Ellen met when he was 13 and she was 12 but didn’t start dating until he was a senior in high school. “Adoption was a thought placed upon our hearts – even when we were teenagers before we married,” he said. “We always felt a strong attraction to adoption. We both can remember different times when we had seen adoption drives or flyers and even talked about whether that was something God was calling us to do.”

Both Cory and Mary Ellen struggled with their fertility. “We had the conversation that maybe it was God’s way of telling us that we need to adopt,” he said. “We weren’t Catholic yet but we were definitely moving toward the church so we didn’t want to use any non-church-approved means of conceiving and bearing a child.”

Married in 2001

The Swordses, who were married in 2001, began investigating the adoption process in July of 2007. That next month they received an unexpected blessing: Mary Ellen was pregnant.

“We put adoption on the back burner for a while,” Cory said. “When Connor was five or six years old it became clear that the fertility issues weren’t worked out and we started talking about adoption.”

The Swordses completed nearly all of the requirements for foster care and adoption but didn’t seek a home license because they were planning to move. Then the Covid pandemic hit.

“As we came out of all of that – our son was in sixth grade during the pandemic – he’d always prayed beautifully for siblings and made a comment: ‘I’m in sixth grade and six years, I’m going to be leaving. And when are we going to do this adoption thing?’ He teased that he would be very upset if we waited till he was graduated.”

So the Swords tagged 2020 as the year of adoption, started working on the house, and began discussing the subject of age.

It’s time to adopt

At the time Connor was about 12 and a child 10- or 11-years-old was a little older than they were planning. “We talked about five (years old) and under. We always talked about one kid, but then we got to thinking, you know, he’s going to be 13 or 14, a sibling set of a couple of kids under five isn’t going to be an issue. So we said hey, let’s be open to siblings.”

Within a week of that decision, Mary Ellen caught up with a friend with whom she hadn’t spent much time because of the pandemic. The friend called the next day and told her about a foster mother who had three children whose parents had just terminated their parental rights.

The Swordses contacted the children’s caseworker and in a few days set up an appointment to meet the three siblings. During the time the Swordses were fulfilling licensing requirements and overcoming paperwork challenges, Cory said, they were “going through all of this turmoil and suffering through the uncertainty of continuing to have these kids that we had loved and that we were certain that God wanted to be ours but then seemingly continuing to have the rug kind of pulled out from under us at every turn.”

Pray on it

As the family-of-six-to-be approached the adoption’s finalization they got a call from their caseworker asking if they would accept an infant who was just over a year old. “At that time we were feeling tapped out,” Cory said. “I’m not usually one to hesitate, I always have a pretty good sense of what is it God is calling us to do, but I told my wife I don’t trust myself to make a good and right decision. So we decided to pray about it.”

Cory visited the chapel at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School and Mary Ellen prayed at Christ the King Church. “She sent me a message saying ‘I’m looking at Jesus with his arms open to us on the crucifix and I don’t feel like we can close our arms to this child.’ I felt a similar sense of just assurance in my prayer, so we called our worker back and said, ‘We’ll do it.’ They dropped her off at our house that evening.”

The Swordses went from a family of three to a family of seven in about a year.

Cory said the children have been a blessing.

“The fourth child just really balanced things out. I think one of my fears was it was going to be that much more difficult taking on an additional child and it actually became much easier. Her personality balances them out. There’s never a kid that’s left out…the two older ones play together the two younger ones play together.”

Parish gives support

The Catholic school and parish communities have given the Swordses a lot of support, he said. “It has been a tremendous blessing all in all.”

Cory said he and Mary Ellen still have some disbelief about how big of an adventure it has been.
“I don’t think there is anything that made me particularly capable of going from raising one kid to raising five kids in such a rapid timeframe,” he said. “I know I’m out of my depth and over my head and that I rely on prayer and God.”

Cory said he and Mary Ellen are learning as they go. “We’re building the plane as it’s hurtling through the air, so to speak. But at the same time, it gives us a lot of opportunities to rely on God and experience his grace – especially through the love of our children and our love for our children.”