Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith

Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith

Waiting for Eli: A Father’s Journey from Fear to Faith" is Chad Judice’s journal of hope and renewed faith in the face of expecting a son diagnosed with spina bifida, and hydrocephalus, and a prognosis that did not fit into Judice’s plans for his family. It is also the story of how one unborn baby brought an entire community to its knees and led a family into the heart of Jesus.
 
 
At the close of the 2005 school year at Cathedral-Carmel Catholic School, 7th & 8th grade Social Studies teacher and basketball coach Chad Judice allowed his students to ask him a question about himself. It would be his last year at CCCS, and he would be teaching some of these same students in the fall at his new position at St. Thomas More High School. He wanted them to know that he was both a teacher and a friend. In all his years there, it was the first time anyone had asked the question, "What do you fear most?"
 
The answer required little thought: "My greatest fear would be to have a child with a mental or physical handicap."
In the dark of an ultrasound room four years later, he would revisit those words. He and his wife Ashley had only wanted to find out if their toddler son Ephraim would have a brother or sister. Instead, they were suddenly thrust headlong into a new world. If the baby survived, he would at the very least have numerous physical disabilities. What does a man of action do when there is nothing within his own power that can be done? He turns to prayer and he brings everyone else along with him.
From the beginning, it's clear this story is bigger than Chad and Eli. The hundreds of students and community of St Thomas More High School "walk" with the Judice family, and model a beautiful response of a Christian community of care: prayers with and for the family, post-it notes throughout the school daily reminding Chad that students had entrusted Eli to the heart of Jesus. The couple was even provided a little apartment close to the hospital around the time of Eli's delivery and surgery.
 
Another story unfolds through the letters students wrote and shared with Judice during the time they prayed both privately and communally for his unborn baby. They are beautiful and remarkable accounts of students finding their faith, returning to their faith, re-ordering their priorities, and even the healing of family members. Judice describes a young man who had always refused to participate in the school's morning prayers. One day, the student stood and began to pray with the class - won over, Chad believes, by the grace that saturated the student body during that time.
 
Chad prefers to call his book a "parable" because he believes that Eli's story has something to teach all of us. One lesson, especially for the hundreds of students at St. Thomas More H.S., is that God can use their love and concern for the weakest, the most powerless and fragile among them to bring a community to Himself. And Chad, what did he learn? In a recent conversation, he told us that the experience of waiting for Eli made him a better man, a better teacher, a better father, and a better husband.
This father is transformed from one who wonders upon the initial diagnosis, "What kind of life is that for a human being?", to a man with an entirely new perspective and assessment of things, "I can truly feel God's presence in his life. Ashley and I have come to realize the gift we gave been given in this little guy named Eli."
 
"Waiting for Eli: A Father's Journey from Fear to Faith" will captivate any reader, particularly parents who have had a prenatal diagnosis experience. It is a very "Catholic" book, saints both obscure and well-known pop up everywhere. Judice generously quotes scripture that spoke to him, yet there is not a moment of preachiness throughout. His personality is very winsome and his experiences feel authentic, even the supernatural ones. We highly recommend the book for those involved in lay ministry and pastoral care of families who have or may be expecting a baby with special needs.   Acadian House Publishing has set up a website for more information about the book at www.waitingforeli.com
 
Reviewed by Monica Rafie on behalf of NCPD