The Beacon Beacon June 18, 2015 : Page 2
2 firstname.lastname@example.org | JUNE 18, 2015 | THE BEACON | DIOCESE S PECIAL N EEDS M INISTRY By MICHAEL WOJCIK NE WS EDIT OR Long Valley parish provides atmosphere where physically, developmentally challenged can thrive LONG VALLEY In many ways, it felt like a typical First Holy Communion. The recipient, Elizabeth Purcell, sat with her family in the front pew of St. Luke Church here during an afternoon Mass June 7. The end of her row of pews displayed a light-blue felt banner that she made for the occasion. But Father Michael Drury, St. Luke’s pas-tor and the Mass’s celebrant, had to help Elizabeth articulate her response of “Amen,” before receiving the Body of Christ, and then assisted her in making the Sign of the Cross after. That’s because Elizabeth has Down syndrome, a genetic disorder charac-terized by growth delays, distinct facial fea-tures and mild to moderate intellectual dis-abilities. She was able to receive her religious formation for First Holy Communion thanks to the rural Morris County parish’s rapidly growing Special Needs Ministry (SNM), which organizes an array of outreaches and programs, including a monthly Mass for chil-dren and families, like the one on June 7. “In some parishes, instruction for First Holy Communion is not an option. Elizabeth was a little disruptive in the regular class, so I taught her at home with a study program that made them [Catholic teachings] easy for her to understand,” said Mary Purcell, Elizabeth’s mother and a St. Luke’s parish-ioner, who praised the special needs Masses, which provide special accommodations for people in wheelchairs or children who squirm in the pews or “call out,” during the services and engage them on their level. “It’s a dif-ferent mindset here. There isn’t any ‘Sssh!’ to be quiet. Sometimes Elizabeth can feel in-hibited, but here, she feels more at ease. Everyone is welcome,” her mother said. These children — some with multiple physical and developmental challenges — al-so enjoy an after-Mass social that takes place in the parish hall, which includes snacks, having fun with friends and activities to help develop motor skills, such as dancing, singing and crafts. Meanwhile, parents — many of whom might feel “tapped out” — are invited to participate in a caregivers support group, facilitated by a professional, where they can get encouragement and information about important resources, said, Joe McGovern, who established SNM with Deacon Tom Healy and Ted McMahon in 2008. SNM has expanded its reach and offerings to serve about 1,500 people, providing pro-grams that they might not find elsewhere. They include the monthly Mass, since many special-needs families do not attend church; a twice-monthly gym night to encourage the children to get physically active; special sacra-mental preparation for young people and adults, which other parishes might not offer; and caregiver support. SNM has become so SPECIAL INVITATION Father Michael Drury, pastor of St. Michael Parish, invites the physically and developmentally challenged members of the congregation and their assistants up to the altar during a recent Mass of the Morris County parish’s Special Needs Ministry. Earlier, he explained the Eucharist and asked them questions in observing the Feast of Corpus Christi. OFFER YOUR LIFE WITH JESUS AS A PRIEST VOCATIONS OFFICE ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF PATERSON HIS EXCELLENCY BISHOP ARTHUR J. SERRATELLI If you think God may be calling you to serve Him in the ministry of the priesthood, please contact us: Fr. Hubert Jurjewicz, Ph.D. Director of Vocations Fr. Jared J. Brogan Assistant Vocation Director Fr. Edgar O. Rivera Assistant Vocation Director ****************************************************************** Vocations Office, 777 Valley Road, Clifton, NJ 07013 www.vocationspaterson.com • Phone: 973-777-8818 ext.711 ****************************************************************** integrated with the life of St. Luke’s that it can tap into the parish’s resources that enable it to hold larger events and outings. A com-mittee that coordinates the ministry also con-ducts its own fundraisers through the year, McGovern said. Among the outings is SNM’s sponsorship of a group of children, parents and helpers on an annual special needs pilgrimage at Easter to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. There, they join 5,000 other people as part of the American Special Children’s pilgrimage group. Locally, the ministry holds outings, such as attending a pre-season Jets football game, which will happen Friday Aug. 21, McGovern said. “People in the Special Needs Ministry feel that they are part of something,” said McGovern, who took note of SNM’s power to evangelize by attracting some families, who are not St. Luke’s parishioners or are not even Catholic. “Many other parishes have special-needs ministries, but we are proud of what we’ve done.” Word about SNM’ successes have spread to the Archdiocese of Newark, where St. Theresa of Lisieux Parish, Cresskill, has im-plemented the ministry, under the leadership of its pastor, Carmelite Father Samuel Citero, who meet the St. Luke’s group on the pil-grimage to Lourdes. They have joined to-gether for Masses and music ministry and for plans to join forces to provide music for the Lourdes pilgrimage in 2016, McGovern said. St. Luke’s outreach recently went global, when McGovern made a presentation about SNM to The Pilgrimage Trust, a U.K.-based charity that takes special-needs children on the Lourdes pilgrimage. The trust’s possible implementation of SNM’s ideas remains in the “developmental stage,” he said. During last Sunday’s Mass at St. Luke’s, Father Drury engaged the children by inviting them to walk or get wheeled up to the front of the altar during his homily. There, he ex-plained the Eucharist and asked them ques-tions in observing the Feast of Corpus Christi. A few children served as lectors and altar servers during the June 7 Mass, which ended most SNM activities until the fall. Later, Father Drury, who originally gave SNM his blessing, called it an “incredible year” for the ministry, which he said has “grown immense-ly since 2008.” Also, he thanked everyone, who makes the ministry possible. “I feel that I can be myself here. I love it up at the altar. I have made many friends,” said 15-year-old Sarah Zeliff, who has cere-bral palsy and neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow at her nerve endings. She suffers problems with her bones, eyes and hips. Usually wheelchair bound, Sarah can walk short distances with assistance, said her mother, CarolAnn. Pushing Sarah in her wheelchair during the Mass was one of the many young vol-unteers who help at the liturgies, special events or the Lourdes pilgrimages: 17-year-old Alexis Dorlon. Her mother, Nina, serves at St. Luke’s youth minister. “All of these kids are amazing. They are people too. They are so happy to be wherever they are at that time,” Alexis said. Another parent grateful for SNM, Kelly Wronko of St. Elizabeth Parish, Flanders, lost a young daughter, Sarah, more than a year ago to infantile neuroaxonial dystrophy, an incurable and ultimately fatal rare genetic disorder, which causes progressive loss of vi-sion, muscular control and mental skills. Her 10-year-old son, Brendan, also has the dis-order, but thankfully, her younger son, 7-year-old Colin, does not. “For a while, I was angry at God. Through the pilgrimage to Lourdes and the Special Needs Ministry, I have received com-fort and strength. I realize that I’m not alone. Other parents are going through this too,” Wronko said. [Information: (908) 754-3062 or visit http://www.stlukeparishlv.com/ministries/ special-needs-ministry/.]
Special Needs Ministry
Long Valley parish provides atmosphere where physically, developmentally challenged can thrive
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