CAMBY, Ind. -- Daniel and Maria Cabrera of Camby in the Indianapolis Archdiocese and their six children are the Knights of Columbus International Family of the Year. They received their award during the organization's Supreme Convention Aug. 1-3 in Orlando, Florida.
"We feel like any regular family," Daniel, 44, told The Criterion, the archdiocesan newspaper. "The only thing we do is say yes to God."
That "yes" includes Daniel's participation in the Knights of Columbus; the family's active involvement in their parish, St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville; the couple and their children's extensive support of pro-life ministry; and Daniel and Maria's online marriage and family life ministry.
"This year, we received nominations from across the United States, Canada, Mexico, Poland and the Philippines," said Steven Curtis, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for the Knights' Supreme Council.
"The Cabrera family was selected because of the great work they do for the Knights of Columbus, their tireless volunteer efforts within their parish and community, as well as their strong pro-life witness," said Curtis. "Daniel and his wife Maria, along with their six children, are an example of what it means to be an exemplary Catholic family."
Daniel and Maria's journey to marriage and the family they have today began in 2009 with two separate prayers of surrender.
It was Christmas Eve, 2009, and Maria knelt in prayer after Communion. Beside her was her 3-year-old daughter, Sara -- the child she chose to keep rather than abort after her boyfriend deserted her during the unplanned pregnancy.
"God, all I really, really want is a family and a good dad for my daughter," the unwed 29-year-old mother implored. "I'm just going to leave this to you, God, because you know what's in my heart, and I know you want the best for us."
A week later, while Maria and Sara were at a New Year's Eve gathering at the home of Sara's babysitter, Daniel was at home saying his own prayer of surrender.
"I'm sick and tired of my heart being broken and trying to find the right person who shares my values," the 31-year-old man admitted in prayer. "So, here's the control, God -- I'm done."
His phone rang, but Daniel had a migraine and chose not to answer.
The message he played back the next morning was from his cousin saying, "Daniel, I need you to come over here! We found the perfect girl for you!"
Daniel's cousin was Sara's babysitter, and the "perfect girl" was Maria.
The two met two days later -- Maria calls it "love at first sight." She and Daniel were engaged within six weeks and married that April.
Thirteen years and 10 children later -- including Sara, whom Daniel adopted, and four miscarried children -- Maria and Daniel still give control of their marriage and family to God.
But that surrender was an evolving process.
Daniel was raised Catholic while growing up in El Salvador. But when he was 13, his parents became Pentecostal Christians.
"When I met Maria, I had so many questions about the faith," he said. "We had some really nice debates."
"Oh, they were awful," Maria interjected. "We ended up fighting every time."
Still, the family grew. By the fall of 2012 they had two sons, Daniel and David.
The couple had agreed before marrying to practice a form of natural family planning. So, the couple was surprised when Maria became pregnant just a few months after David was born. She gave birth to Gianna in September 2013.
In studying a different form of NFP called the Creighton model, Daniel became "more and more interested in other teachings of the Catholic Church," Maria explains. "And that's how he came to believe that the Catholic Church had the truth."
Daniel said the Knights played a role in his return to the faith as well.
"I really didn't have any idea what the Knights did," he said. "The more I learned, the more I saw they share our pro-life and pro-family values." He officially became a member of the St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus Council No. 7431 a few years later in 2018.
Daniel had already received the sacraments of initiation as a youth. To make his "re-version" formal, he completed a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults course, then went to his first confession in nearly 25 years.
Around the time of Gianna's birth and Daniel's return to the faith, the couple was learning to lean more on God.
"When we found out Maria was pregnant with Gianna, I was so worried about finances," Daniel admits. "We were already paying almost $2,500 a month in day care alone."
So, the couple prayed and gave control of the situation to God.
"Suddenly -- I mean out of nowhere -- I received a 44% raise," he recalled. "From that point forward, I just threw my calculator out the window. I know that every time a baby arrives, it is a blessing from God, and he will provide."
Maria was able to leave the workforce and focus on raising the children.
"It was all part of God's plan," said Maria. "It was around that time that two of our kids were diagnosed with different levels of autism, so I was able to give them the attention they needed to help them."
It was also around that time that the couple started their online ministry, Daniel y Maria Online: Defendemos la Vida y la Familia -- Daniel and Maria Online: Defending Life and the Family.
The ministry started simply. Maria posted pro-life articles and made short videos promoting 40 Days for Life.
Then Daniel had an idea.
"I suggested why not film a video about her testimony, about how she was confronted with choosing life or death for Sara, and why she chose life," he recalled.
"That video became viral. And after that video, we made more and more and more videos. And that's how our ministry started growing and growing and growing. And we reached people around the world -- we were blown away."
Daniel and Maria's online site, danielymariaonline.com, now offers videos, blogs and information on pro-life and pro-family issues, including the Creighton model, marriage preparation, human sexuality, post-abortion healing, even finances -- Daniel is a certified master financial coach.
The couple give talks and retreats, lead marriage preparation classes and have even been interviewed on EWTN en Español and EWTN Radio Catolica Mundial.
She volunteers extensively -- particularly in Spanish -- with at least six local and national pro-life organizations and participates in and presents at Hispanic pro-life conferences in and outside of Indiana. Her efforts have earned her awards from the archdiocese and Right to Life Indianapolis (RTLI).
Whether it's a pro-life prayer vigil in Indianapolis or the national March for Life in Washington, some or all of the couple's children are in tow, including Joseph, 7, and Fatima Lucia, 2.
"Everything we do, whether we are traveling just for pleasure or because we have been invited to an event, we take the whole family," said Daniel. "That's our mantra: the whole family needs to be together, and the whole family needs to pray together -- even if it takes an hour-and-a-half to get through the rosary with six kids."
By involving the children in their ministry and living faithful Catholic lives, Daniel and Maria's efforts have become a family affair.
Sara, 16, co-founded Homeschoolers for Life last year. Daniel, 12, and Gianna, 9, have made videos for the online ministry. Daniel and David, 10, are altar servers at St. Thomas More, while Sara and Gianna sing in the parish's choir.
"We're not perfect," Maria told The Criterion. "We have our difficult moments and trials. And sometimes the mission and tasks are hard. But we pray, and God always gives us a clear sign of the next little or big project he wants us to work on."
Daniel nodded in agreement.
"Basically, what we're doing is just sharing with the world how much we love Christ and how much we love our faith."
Natalie Hoefer is a reporter for The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.