Any day now, Good Counsel Homes, a network of residences in the New York City area that helps single mothers choose life, will see the birth of its 1,000th baby since opening in 1985.
And Christopher Bell, who founded Good Counsel along with the late Father Benedict Groeschel, will be wearing his characteristic smile when it happens.
Bell and his wife, Joan Andrews Bell, have been working for decades to protect and nurture nascent life.
You can see it in their own modest home in New Jersey, where seven children, mostly adopted from abroad and mostly with special needs, have learned how to love by being loved.
Bell plays down any uniqueness the family may enjoy.
“Well, seven children isn’t that big of a family for our family,” he said. “Joan’s sisters, one has 8, another has 12. But we think children are a gift from God. They are a great blessing.”
The Bells married late in life and were able to have one child of their own. “I tell even young couples: you never know if you will have any children,” he said. “Every couple, I think, should discern whether they should adopt other children because there are so many children who need to be adopted.”
“Our children have brought so many blessings in our life,” he said.
Not least of which is learning how to love.
“We say we love ice cream, we love animals,” Bell noted. “But real love is building relationship with other people.”
For a Catholic like Bell, though, it’s not just coming home from work, having dinner together and reading bedtime stories.
“I have to make time for prayer,” he insisted. “It feels very empty if there is a day where I cannot attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. And beyond that, I struggle to pray the Rosary every day but even more important than that is just to keep God in mind.”
Of his children, who come from Russia, Mexico and the US, Bell said “everyone is a gift and a different story,” a family “we could have never planned…. But I think to have a family that is open to life. that is what love is. And when families are not open to life we are restricting love, and it’s so sad because God gave us so many opportunities to love and to share.”