I feel honored to be called to serve as Coordinator for our new Special Needs Ministry at Saint Michael's. My family and I have been members of St. Michael's since it was a Mission at the Rec Center. We have come so far as a church community! Over the years, I have served as a Catechist in the PSR program, Leader of Life Support cooking team, and as Life Teen Assistant. I am looking forward to meeting and talking with all of our families who have a member who experience disabilities and for the opportunity to support you in reaching your spiritual goals for your family member, including, but not limited to, participating fully in Mass, attending PSR, learning about the history of our faith through bible study, and receiving the sacraments of our beautiful Catholic faith. Our ministry will focus on these goals and we hope to have a social each month to get to know each other and share our successes!
My wonderful husband, Jim, and I are blessed to be parents of four beautiful children, three daughters and one son. Our journey into the world with a child with special needs began in 1992, when our son Justin was three years old. He was first diagnosed with a hearing loss, then ADHD, and then moderate Autism with severe language delays. It has been a road we never expected we would be on, as I'm sure, you know very well. We have seen many doctors and therapists over his 26 years of life and he has grown up to become a gentle and kind soul with a true love for Jesus Christ and our church family. When Saint Michael's was first a mission and our four children were all under the age of seven, we found it very difficult to bring Justin to Mass because of the openess of the rec center, so we took the "divide and conquer" approach. After we moved into the church building, we wanted Justin to participate in Mass and began teaching him to use sign language to respond and we were able to attend Mass together again as a family. Later, we began his spiritual development in the PSR program at Saint Michael's with myself as an assistant and later as a Catechist. We developed flash cards and adapted the class materials so he could participate in an inclusion classroom. In 1999, he had his First Reconciliation and received his First Holy Eucharist at the age of 10 with his PSR class. I'll never forget how proud we were of him and how much he had overcome to get to this point in his spiritual life! He continued with PSR classes until completing the sacrament of Confirmation. Justin joined Life Teen, with parental support, and enjoyed going to all of the Life Nights and Retreats with support, both from us, Chris Berens and from many teens in the parish that grew up with him through PSR. Today, he participates in Mass fully, enjoys singing, and has even led a decade of the Rosary at our Thanksgiving blessing over the baskets this year. For his time and talent, he recently joined the Welcome Committee, so please say hello whenever he is opening doors for Mass!