A father's love
By John Gleason
History is resplendent with stories of fathers who have sacrificed much for their children. Most of us don’t have to look very far to find such tales—often the story is in our own family or neighborhood.
In the case of Jose Salazar, it isn’t what he gave up but what he couldn’t give up that makes this story special.
In 1991 Jose and a woman with whom he was having a relationship discovered they were going to be parents. The two weren’t married to each other and neither thought that such a union would work out. When the baby boy was born the following year, the couple decided to give him up for
adoption. They named him Peter.
Working with social services, the two looked for a suitable family with which to place the child. A week before the adoption was to go through, Jose took his son home for the weekend to spend time with him before he went off to his new family. It was a life-changing decision.
“I felt it was the Holy Spirit turning inside of me and the need to spend the weekend with him,” Jose recalled. “I wanted a small bit of time before he was no longer mine.”
One weekend was all it took for Jose to realize he couldn’t place his son with another family. He decided to raise the child himself.
“I brought him home and just couldn’t let him go back,” he said.
Before Jose shared his decision with anyone an incident occurred that in his mind blessed his son and helped him on his life journey. It happened when a married friend with children, then-Denver City Councilman Tim Sandos, offered to watch Peter over a weekend.
“On that Saturday he had a meeting … at which then-Archbishop J. Francis Stafford was present,” Salazar said. “The archbishop asked Tim why he had a baby with him and was told the child was to be put up for adoption.”
Tim asked Archbishop Stafford if he would pray for Jose and for the child and his future. The prelate held the nearly 1-month-old Peter in his hands and blessed him. Denver Catholic Register photographer James Baca took a photo that appeared in the March 11, 1992, issue of the newspaper along with a story about abortion. The caption read “Archbishop J. Francis Stafford with baby Pete who stopped by for a visit on his way to be adopted.”
The adoption never took place and Jose believes Peter’s encounter with now-Cardinal Stafford is a big reason why.
“I believe the bishop’s blessings and prayers helped the situation that took Peter to where he is right now,” Jose said. “Pope John Paul II said, ‘In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.’ I believe that.”
Although Jose and Peter’s mother never married each other or cohabitated, they worked hard at raising their son together.
Peter grew up strong in faith and attended Denver’s Ranum High School where he was the valedictorian for his graduating class. He earned eight academic letters, five athletic letters, won numerous scholarships and was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cal-Tech and Princeton. This spring he finished up his first year at Stanford University in California where he plans to study aerospace engineering. He is currently in El Salvador for a month doing mission work with a Catholic group.
“I’m incredibly blessed,” Peter said. “I look at what I have, at what my parents have done for me. Through adoption, rather than abortion, they chose life for me. I have to thank God every day for that.”
Peter said he doesn’t wonder what his life would have been like had he been adopted or what sort of person he might have grown up to become. Rather, he prefers being thankful for what happened. Asked what he’d say if he ever gets the chance to meet Cardinal Stafford and remind him of the photo they once took, he laughed and said he’ll never forget the significance of that moment.
“God can always make the best out of any situation,” he said. “Pretty incredible, don’t you think?”