When our daughter Danielle, who has autism, was around age 5 we took her to a neighboring parish to begin her religious education. This parish, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Moorestown, New Jersey, had a program for students with special needs. It was amazing because everyone was welcome. No child was turned away, and some families traveled quite a distance to attend this program. As a family with four children, we found it difficult to manage two religious education programs in two different parishes. So after a year, Danielle returned to our home parish to continue her religious education.
As the years went by, the program at Our Lady of Good Counsel continued to flourish. Recently we returned on a Saturday morning to visit the program and to catch up with old friends. We were impressed by all the growth that has taken place over the last decade! The program started with Breaking of Bread, a breakfast prepared by volunteers who give so generously of their time and talents. After breakfast, the students broke into small groups based on age. There was a nice variety of ages, ranging from those just starting school to young adults.
There were new activities: making music with bells, an adapted Rosary, arts and crafts, and biblical storytelling. Father led a practice session on reverent receipt of unconsecrated hosts. Technology was used in creative ways to learn about the saints and view religious icons.
As bystanders, we could feel the grace of God extending to our family and to all the children being taught. We could feel the warmth of inclusion, especially when Father told us we “will always have a home here.” We know that, behind the scenes, angels are at work reaching out to children and young adults with special needs.
Copyright 2019 David and Mercedes Rizzo