All Are Welcome, Just as They Are

FAIRFIELD—Special Masses for young people with disabilities are both a joyful celebration of what Jesus calls us to do and an important way to promote their inclusion in the life of the parish.

Saint Catherine Center will host its 2018 Mass Celebrating People with Special Needs on Sunday, December 2nd, 2 pm at Holy Cross Church, adjacent the Center at 750 Tahmore Drive in Fairfield.

As many as 15 young people from all over the diocese will receive the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and/or Confirmation. It is a moving experience each year. Individuals of all ages and their families are welcome to join in the celebration, with refreshments following.

“It is beautiful to see Anna and her classmates participate in the Mass,” said Dave Stowe, parent of a Saint Catherine Academy student who was confirmed at the 2017 Mass. This year, Anna will be one of the readers for the celebration.

In addition to promoting inclusion of people with special needs in parish life, the Office for Parish & Community Support serves as a resource across the diocese to help families with the process of preparing their special needs children and young adults to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. They are available to advise families and Directors of Religious Education about accommodations or modifications that might be needed, and even to “practice” with the individuals. For more information, call: 203.540.5381.

Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God”  Luke 18:16.

Updates from the Center:
Bringing Stories to Life
Role-playing is all part of the weekly TheaterWorks program with “Mr. Matt” (Hennessy), a music therapist at Arts For Healing in New Canaan and director of TheaterWorks.

The program integrates music, art, movement, and education into a fun theater experience for individuals with special needs. Using music and repetition, music therapists like Mr. Matt adapt familiar Disney stories, fairy tales, songs and nursery rhymes to engage participants in the story while also developing language, cognitive and social skills. Each session begins with a welcome song and an overview of the story. Then the story is acted out twice, giving everyone a chance to participate and express themselves in different roles. A goodbye song closes the session.

“It’s a pleasure coming in every week and using their ideas as the foundation of a shared experience that we work through,” Mr. Matt said.

“The adults have a great time,” said Mr. Rich, a staff member. “You should have seen Ryan as the little old lady the second time through the story. He really took the role to heart.”

Tricks and Treats…

Halloween is one of the most anticipated days of the year at the Center. In the Academy, each class let their imaginations go wild for the Pumpkin Decorating Contest—with awards for the Most Colorful, Most Creative, Most Scary and Most Funny. Magician Jay Reidy offered up a few perplexing tricks in his Magic Show, such as the upside-down crayon and the knotted rope. After the show, everyone enjoyed some popcorn treats before heading home to trick-or-treat.

Participants in the Adult Day program especially enjoyed a day to dress up as their favorite characters—which included angels, a princess, a butterfly, a fairy, a clown, a policeman and fireman, army sergeant, Superman, Cat-in-the-Hat and more! The morning was full of homemade entertainment, thanks to some spooky games (“Sack Drac” and a skull toss) contributed by Kelley and Drew Schutte. A pizza lunch and homemade cupcakes from Michelle Rivelli followed

Doin’ the Monster Mash

More than 125 guests attended the fall Dinner Dance for people with special needs on October 19th—some in costume, and all eager to enjoy a delicious pasta dinner together. Dinner, however, is just a prelude to the main event—dancing. Our dedicated DJ, Herb Ramirez, had the dancing crowd going with a set of Halloween favorites, from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to “Monster Mash.”

The Dinner Dances continue to draw many people from group homes and individuals across the diocese. The special events are also an opportunity for local parishes to get involved. Our thanks to Cathy Romano and the youth group at Assumption Church in Westport for creating the festive fall centerpieces, and to Sue Baldwin at St. Andrew in Bridgeport, who gathered as many as 20 teens to serve food and beverages to the many guests who packed the beautiful Parish Hall, and to Rev. Sam Kachuba at St. Pius X Church in Fairfield.

The evening concluded as it often does with a conga line of laughing family and friends circling the big room. “The camaraderie and everyone’s pure enjoyment make the evening so worthwhile,” said one attendee. “I always have a good time.”