March 25, 2011

‘Fiesta’ of faith: Special Religious Development participants enjoy dinner and dance

SPRED participant Heather Simon from Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis enjoys dancing to rock and roll music on March 19 during the Special Religious Development dinner and dance in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

SPRED participant Heather Simon from Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis enjoys dancing to rock and roll music on March 19 during the Special Religious Development dinner and dance in Indianapolis. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

It was definitely a festive fundraiser.

The “Fiesta” costumes, decorations and menu made the 11th annual archdiocesan Special Religious Development dinner and dance even more fun for SPRED participants, their families, friends, catechists and other program supporters on March 19 at the Marten House in Indianapolis.

Richmond Catholic Community’s SPRED group—like many members of the other parish groups—came dressed for the occasion with Mexican ponchos and hats. (View photos or purchase reprints here)

Holy Family parishioner and SPRED participant Mike Luken of Richmond was excited about the party, and happy to see all of his SPRED friends from other parishes in the archdiocese.

He also was happy to talk about his love for Jesus and his Catholic faith.

“Jesus means love and helping people,” Luken explained before the dinner, and the SPRED program means “love and family and friends.”

His SPRED friend, Jim Miller from St. Mary Parish in Richmond, said when he thinks about Jesus he remembers “SPRED and Father Todd [Riebe, his pastor] and [going to] church.”

His favorite prayer, he said, is “the meal prayer.”

St. Mary parishioner June Miller of Richmond, his mother, said she was “so thrilled when SPRED was started in the archdiocese” because she had taught her son about the Catholic faith and prepared him to receive the sacraments years ago, but knew that he needed more religious education from trained catechists.

“SPRED is fabulous,” she said. “We have regular gatherings in Richmond twice a month, and the catechists meet in between the gatherings to plan the next ones. It’s a perfect program for the SPRED participants. They can’t wait to go every other week. We had started by getting the kids through Communion and Confirmation, and then SPRED came along and some wonderful catechists took over. I love them for it.”

St. Andrew parishioner Denise Gray of Richmond, who volunteers as a catechist, said the SPRED participants “are good friends, and it’s neat to see how spiritual they can be.”

Holy Family parishioner Sue Kinsey said she started teaching her son, John, about the Catholic faith when he was a boy so he could receive the sacraments.

As an adult, the SPRED program keeps him connected to his faith, she said. “Each time they go, they have a Scripture reading and time to reflect on it. It has helped him learn about Jesus and the Mass.

“John will go to church even on his own, and he knows how to participate in the Mass,” Kinsey said. “He can practice his faith, and he has a wonderful time with the SPRED group. They do special things each time. He would rather go to SPRED than go with us on a family outing. It’s very important to keep [Catholics with developmental disabilities] within the Church as a group.”

Ten parishes in central and southern Indiana host SPRED groups.

St. Paul Parish in Tell City has offered this ministry for 30 years. St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg and St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis began SPRED groups 11 years ago.

The Richmond Catholic Community also hosts a SPRED group for St. Mary, St. Andrew and Holy Family parishes.

In Indianapolis, people with developmental disabilities may also participate in SPRED groups at St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Monica, Holy Spirit, St. Luke the Evangelist, St. Mark the Evangelist and St. Simon the Apostle parishes.

During a break from dancing, St. Mary parishioner and SPRED participant Maggie Tassaro of Richmond said she “loves everything and everybody” in the Special Religious Development program.

Her mother, St. Mary parishioner Doris Tassaro of Richmond, said SPRED’s volunteer catechists have helped her daughter, Maggie, become more involved in parish life.

“I think all the catechists do a wonderful job,” she said. “It takes a lot of time, and they’re very dedicated.”

Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is scheduled to be the principal celebrant when the archdiocesan Special Religious Development program participants, their families, friends, catechists and other supporters gather again for Mass at 3 p.m. on May 1 at St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis. †

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