October 7, 2011

New assistant director hopes to increase awareness of special needs

By Sean Gallagher

Kara FavataKara Favata dedicated herself to earning a master’s degree in special education and working in that field for more than a decade because of the “ah ha moments” she’s seen in students with special needs.

“So many times, they found ways to hide in the classroom,” said Favata. “It’s when they get something presented or re-taught or explained in a new way and they’re able to come out and say, ‘I get it now.’ That’s the ‘ah ha moment.’

“I have a love for that moment where they embrace what they’re learning. … That, to me, is the grabbing moment.”

In her work as the new assistant director for special religious education of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ Office of Catholic Education, Favata hopes to help catechists and Catholics in general across central and southern Indiana discover the beauty of those “ah ha moments.”

A member of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Noblesville, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, Favata comes to this ministry after working for 11 years in special education in a variety of settings and with students across the broad spectrum of special needs.

She earned a master’s degree in special education at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and has been a volunteer catechist.

Favata sees a close connection between her work with special needs students and her Catholic faith.

“God gave them special gifts and talents that may not be society’s measure of gifts and talents, but when we look at Scripture, it’s often [told from the perspective of] someone who was an outcast, someone who was looked down upon by the community,” she said. “But they brought us some of the greatest lessons that we have learned through Jesus showing his love to them.

“It’s not just about including them. It’s really about them being able to give their gifts and talents to the community. They have gifts that can bring other people closer to the faith.”

In her work as assistant director for special religious education, Favata will oversee the Special Religious Development (SPRED) program that has, for many years, helped people of various ages with disabilities to grow in their knowledge and love of the Catholic faith.

She will also help catechists in ordinary parish-based catechetical programs to gain an understanding of the gifts and challenges of special needs students and strategies to help them learn the faith effectively.

Favata also will work to help parishioners and parish staff members across the archdiocese to grow in awareness of the presence of people with disabilities in their faith community and to help include them in the life of their parishes.

Ken Ogorek, director of catechesis in the Office of Catholic Education, sees this task of raising awareness as potentially helping form new SPRED groups.

“If parishioners aren’t aware of persons with disabilities in the first place,” Ogorek said, “and if they’re not putting forth effort to including these folks in the life of the parish—both generally speaking and in various catechetical settings—they may not see a need for an effort like SPRED.”

Harry Plummer, executive director of the Office of Catholic Education, is looking forward to ministering with Favata.

“We have wanted to expand our services to parishes with respect to assisting them with the faith formation of persons with special needs for some time now,” said Plummer. “We think Kara’s background and interests are providentially aligned with this vision, particularly with respect to the training of catechists, coordinating the exemplary work of our local SPRED groups and assisting parishes in their efforts to ensure that persons with special needs are fully included in all aspects of parish life.

“It’s an exciting ministry and we believe Kara is ready to meet its challenges both capably and faithfully.”

For her part, Favata is looking forward to helping parishes across the archdiocese become communities that recognize people with disabilities and welcome them warmly.

“It’s exciting to know that it could possibly be a place where they see this as their second home …, ” Favata said. “This could be a place where they could see themselves as equal with their peers and consider their Church their second home.”

(For more information on SPRED or how catechetical programs, schools and parishes can include people with special needs, call Kara Favata at 317-236-1599 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1599, or send an e-mail to kfavata@archindy.org.)

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