Fr. Chris Kight, ordained in May 2023 and pictured here blessing his mother, Vicki Kight, shares his family’s story during Adoption Awareness Month. ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD | WKC
Fr. Chris Kight’s adoption paved the way for his vocation
BY ROBERT ALAN GLOVER, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC.
“In you the orphan finds mercy.” – Hosea 14:3. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord.” – Psalm 127.
And, should these words go unheeded, remember that November is National Adoption Month.
A multi-purpose campaign sponsored by the United States Children’s Bureau, this observance seeks to raise awareness of adoption issues, appealing for more families to help teens in the foster care system, and emphasize the need for youth engagement.
Fr. Chris Kight is a newly-ordained priest in the Diocese of Owensboro, and one who knows about adoption and its positive side very well. Fr. Kight was adopted at six weeks of age by Jerry Kight (now deceased) and his wife, Vicki, of Paducah.
Since his ordination, Fr. Chris has become the parochial vicar/associate pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville, Ky. After his adoption, Fr. Chris was joined by a brother, Ion, whom his parents adopted from Romania.
“I was adopted at a very young age. My mother and father made it a point to make sure I knew I was loved, wanted, and cared for. They never hid the fact that I was adopted from me,” he said, adding that “my biological mother had some issues through which she was not able to care for me the way I would have needed.”
Recalling his adoption day, Jan. 31, 1993, Fr. Chris said it was celebrated “just like a birthday.”
When asked about his call to the priesthood, Fr. Chris said he “felt an attraction to the Mass and I always admired priests and the priesthood from a young age, by watching them, and I always thought that one day I might become one.”
So much so that – while pursuing a degree in music education from 2011 to 2015 – the sound of music lost out to a higher calling. As Fr. Chris recalls, “I got burned out pursuing my degree, and lost interest in teaching music.”
Rediscovering his true purpose and calling – that of serving the Church as a priest – Fr. Chris spent six years of priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in southern Indiana, and two years of pastoral ministry at St. Joseph Parish in Bowling Green.
Speaking on his adoption, Fr. Chris told the WKC, “(The adoption) gave me a forever family. It is a beautiful family that had a good and healthy marriage, and later a younger brother from Romania. On the whole, I was very blessed in this area and realized it as soon as I was old enough to understand the situation.”
“I never thought about being adopted unless the subject was brought up,” Fr. Chris said.
He added, however, that “I acquired many of my adopted father’s mannerisms – or so I am told – and although I have never met my biological father, I did meet my biological brother.”
Locating his birthmother was not a strong desire, and even with his biological brother the eventual meeting followed much back-and-forth conversation.
“I recently went on vacation with my biological brother and his family. I was able to meet his newest son and reconnect with his older son. My biological brother and his wife live in South Carolina, about an eight-hour drive from Hopkinsville,” he said.
“If not for my adoption, and the way in which my parents raised me, there is no way I would be a priest today,” Fr. Chris observed.
He said that as a priest, he has met couples who struggle with infertility – and has also met “women who have decided to give birth under very difficult circumstances when they could have terminated the pregnancy. This was very brave and noble of them because they chose life,” Fr. Chris said.
“All life is sacred, and love can come from adoption. I myself cannot fathom a life without having been adopted,” he said, suggesting that people who are struggling with infertility might consider adoption.
“It is a beautiful option because it gives a child a family in which they are loved as God loves them. I see how much infertility hurts many couples. It can be devastating, especially to the marriage. I would encourage couples who wish to have a family seriously consider adoption,” Fr. Chris said.
Vicki Kight is Fr. Chris’s adopted mother and a resident of Paducah for the past 43 years. Now retired, Vicki works part-time as a bookkeeper/accountant at St. Thomas More Parish in Paducah.
She told the WKC that “my husband Jerry and I had been married for 13 years and were unable to have children. An organization called the Mary Kendall Foster Home did a home study and the adoption paperwork for our domestic situation.
“We did not care about the child’s origins; we wanted a baby and went to Charlotte, North Carolina for Chris; it was a closed adoption that was handled by Christian Adoption Services in Charlotte, and everything turned out wonderfully; there were no issues because what was done was done,” Vicki said.
She noted that Chris and his biological mother “are in contact; they stay in touch and there’s no tension between them because – as Chris once said – ‘she’s not you.’”
The Kights attended a support group after adopting Chris; one in which he was the only domestic adoptee, and most of his peers were Asian. The family stopped attending the group as Chris grew older, and his mother recalled that “he had adjusted very well and was very happy.”
As to her son answering the call, Vicki told the WKC that “it was as early as first grade – when he could stand in a pew – that I noticed how he would copy all of the mannerisms of our pastor at the time, Fr. Jerry Riney.”
When he was about 7 or 8, Vicki recalled, “I brought materials from Wal-Mart to make (pretend) vestments that Chris could slip over his head, and (then) he became active in the daily Masses as an altar boy.”
Fr. Chris’s ordination this past summer, his mother said, “was beautiful; Bishop Medley moved it to Paducah so that more people could enjoy it, and I think the ceremony really opened some eyes – I have never been happier.”
Ion Kight is the younger brother of Fr. Chris, and he was adopted from Romania at age 3.
Now 26 years old, Ion said “I don’t remember my other family, because this has been my only real one; Chris wanted a younger brother, so our parents decided to see what they could do,” he recalled.
He added that “we are brothers, and because we are both adopted, as I grew up our relationship just seemed natural.”
As to his brother entering the priesthood, Ion said, “it’s great and it has always been something that he wanted to do, or else pursue a musical career,” Ion said.
Ion also feels that couples who are struggling to begin a family should consider adopting a child.
“I have friends who were adopted, and based on their positive outcomes, I would encourage rather than discourage a couple to ‘go for it,’ because in the end it is the bond that you forge as a family that is what counts.”
“However, it has to be something that you want to do; it has to be your choice,” Ion said.
Fr. Chris’s biological, older brother by three years is Cameron Jenkins.
Now 34 years old, Cameron said, “I first reached out to Chris about four years ago, and there was no difficulty in tracking him down because the adoption records were still in good physical condition.”
“The only requirement was that the agency could not release any information to me until Chris approved it, and afterwards we communicated by regular mail, then email, and finally began talking by phone,” Cameron said.
He said he has always known their biological mother – “she has been in and out of my life to where I always knew who she was – more so than Chris did.”
“Her name is Elizabeth, she is 54 years old now, and things have improved for her,” Cameron said.
The brothers just recently saw each other for the third time in four years, during Fr. Chris’s vacation. A highlight of the visit was our new priest being able to see his new nephew, who was born seven days before Fr. Chris’s ordination to the priesthood.
“I wanted to attend it, and would have, but still think it was a great moment for him because I was raised in a private, Christian school environment, and it was interesting to hear about the differences (in their two faiths),” Cameron said.
“Chris listened to his call from the Lord, and now we converse around Jesus and football,” Cameron concluded.
Robert Alan Glover writes for FAITH/West Tennessee Catholic in the Diocese of Memphis, Crossroads in the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., and OSV News in Indiana. An alumnus of the University of Dayton, he minored in theology, is a two-time survivor of kidney disease, and the recipient of a donor organ in November 2019.
Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.