By NADIA MARIA SMITH
CS&T Staff Writer
PHOENIXVILLE – When Jeannine Norris found out her 4-year-old daughter had a brain tumor, she leaned heavily on Mary for strength.
Norris, a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, reflected on how much courage Mary had knowing that her Son would be hers only for a night, the night of His birth, and then she would have to give Him up.
That experience inspired Norris to write her first children’s book, “Tonight You Are My Baby,” a retelling of the birth of Christ from Mary’s perspective, which is out in time for the Christmas season.
The book, published by HarperCollins and illustrated by Tim Ladwig, is Norris’ way of giving thanks to the Blessed Mother for the graces Norris received during the difficult months, and as a way of giving back to the many families who have children suffering with pediatric brain tumors.
Her daughter Quinn’s cancer was benign and it was surgically removed. She is now 8 years old and cancer free, but Norris knows that isn’t the case for every child.
That’s why a portion of the book sales will be donated to At Least Kids, a nonprofit organization started by Norris and her husband Peter to support the research of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and to assist families with a child with a pediatric brain tumor.
“When we were going through it with Quinn, I thought what Mary had to go through,” said Norris. She wondered if she could surrender to God’s will if He asked her to use what was happening with her daughter to help others, even if it meant taking her away.
“I realized I didn’t have the strength and that I needed spiritual help,” she said.
That’s when she turned to the Blessed Mother, to whom she has a close bond as a mother herself, and to her Catholic faith. Norris also turned to her earthly mother, who had passed away, and asked for her intercession.
Norris felt those prayers answered when she received an e-mail with the prayer of St. Therese of Lisieux from an acquaintance who didn’t know of her daughter’s illness.
“It sounded like something my mom would say,” Norris recalled of the prayer. “There are all kinds of creative ways to express your faith through any number of talents you have. This is part of the prayer of St. Therese, to use the gift you have and pass along the love to others. I am using my gift of writing and passing on the love to others through the foundation.”
Norris is Catholic-school educated. She attended St. Rose of Lima School in North Wales and Lansdale Catholic High School. She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton and a master’s degree in public health education from St. Joseph’s University. She worked in healthcare marketing before she decided to pursue writing full time. She also has a 10-year-old son, Shane.
“I grew up as the youngest of seven children, so I had a lot to write about from my experience of coming from a large family,” she said. “Writing and reading were my two favorite subjects in school. As a professional writer, my kids are a huge inspiration.”
CS&T staff writer Nadia Maria Smith may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 965-4614.