March 15, 2013

SPRED participants live out their faith during Mass at St. Meinrad Parish

SPRED friends and their catechists pose in St. Meinrad Church in St. Meinrad on March 3. Shown, from left, front row, Lisa Schaefer, Teresa Ippoliti, Courtney Ruxer and Judy Seifrig. Second row, Benedictine Father Anthony Vinson, administrator of St. Meinrad Parish, Mary Grace Blowers, Liz Mohr, Sheila Fischer, Lee Niehaus, Aaron Fosche, Judy Colby, Joseph Chan and Marilyn Becker. (Submitted photo)

SPRED friends and their catechists pose in St. Meinrad Church in St. Meinrad on March 3. Shown, from left, front row, Lisa Schaefer, Teresa Ippoliti, Courtney Ruxer and Judy Seifrig. Second row, Benedictine Father Anthony Vinson, administrator of St. Meinrad Parish, Mary Grace Blowers, Liz Mohr, Sheila Fischer, Lee Niehaus, Aaron Fosche, Judy Colby, Joseph Chan and Marilyn Becker. (Submitted photo)

Special to The Criterion

ST. MEINRAD—Special Religious Development (SPRED) is a faith community within a larger parish faith community, and offers participants a place of their own where they are missed if they aren’t there.

An international faith education program, SPRED was started by Father James McCarthy of the Archdiocese of Chicago in the early 1960s, and involves integrating the day-to-day experiences of those with developmental disabilities into their own faith experiences and knowledge of their Creator.

SPRED participants are divided into four age groups: children, ages 6-10; youth, ages 11-16; young adults, ages 17-21; and adults, ages 22 and older. Those who take part in SPRED are called “special friends.”

St. Meinrad Parish began its SPRED program with a 22 and older age group in the fall of 2012 consisting of five friends, five catechists (one for each friend), an activities catechist and a leader catechist.

The friends, along with their catechists, participated in Mass at St. Meinrad Church on March 3. They served as greeters, servers, lectors, gift bearers and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.

New catechist training takes place within the SPRED community. The catechists begin each session in quiet activities with their friend. The activities catechist has the responsibility of seeing that each one is involved in one of the many activities available in the SPRED center, and that it is directed to relaxing each person to get them out of the stresses of their day.

The activities director then guides everyone to a quiet circle where each friend and catechist is called by name to join the leader catechist at the SPRED altar that has been prepared with a lighted candle, and the symbol that the lesson is centered around along with the “holy book,” the Bible.

The leader elicits some aspect of each person’s recent experiences and leads them to the deeper meaning of those experiences as it relates to their life in Jesus. The lesson is followed by an agape meal, where all share and enjoy symbolic food together.

It is during the agape meal that respect for food and the difference between bread and holy bread—the Eucharist—is taught to those who have not yet received their first holy Communion.

“Being a catechist in a SPRED community is not something that can be described, it must be experienced,” said Judy Colby, lead SPRED catechist at St. Meinrad Parish. “Living the little and the big ‘wow’ moments in a SPRED community bonds the group in a way that allows the entire group to realize a sense of the sacred. The group’s awareness of the divine is simply a gift.”
 

(St. Meinrad Parish hopes to begin a SPRED program for children ages 11-16 this fall. Parents of children with developmental disabilities in the St. Meinrad area are invited to contact Judy Colby at 812-357-2325 or Marilyn Becker at 812-357-2005.)

 

Related story: Dinner dance unites families, friends with special needs

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!