By Barb Arland-Fye
Special Faith Saturdays, a faith formation program for individuals ages 16 years and older with special needs, begins monthly classes Sept. 22 at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove. Students with intellectual disabilities from throughout the Davenport Diocese who are not involved in a parish faith formation program are invited to participate.
In this diocesan program, students have an opportunity to learn more about their Catholic faith in a learning style tailored to their needs and to socialize with their peers. Students are invited to attend Mass afterwards and to serve as ushers, lectors and gift bearers if they so choose.
St. Ann parishioner Nancy Shannon, a retired special education teacher, returns as the class’s main catechist in collaboration with Mary Wieser, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Davenport. This year they’re introducing “What the Church Believes and Teaches,” a Pflaum Gospel Weeklies Faith Formation Program. The easy-reading lessons help students understand each week’s Gospel and provide a creative drama activity in which students act out the Gospel story for a given Sunday. Students get to take home the whole month’s lesson pamphlets. “They can read through each one before that Sunday’s Mass, which I think will be very helpful in preparing them for the Mass,” Shannon said.
Wieser said the faith formation lessons are designed to teach students core values of the Catholic faith, and provide resources for parents or caregivers who desire to be involved in the student’s faith formation. “This is the same series that St. Ann’s is using for faith formation for its pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students,” Wieser noted.
Special Faith Saturdays’ participants range in age from 16 to around 50, but individuals of all ages are welcome to participate, Shannon and Wieser said. This year, in addition to helpers Jane Bergendahl and Mary Ann Curran, Special Faith Saturdays will receive assistance from high school juniors at St. Ann’s who are preparing to be confirmed. “They’ll help throughout the year and we want to find a service project that they can all work on together,” Shannon said.
She and Wieser believe they have developed a good sense of the needs of Special Faith Saturdays’ students, a number of whom return each year for the program, which is entering its third year. “Now that we know the group a little better, we know their abilities,” Wieser said. “We know we don’t have any trouble having discussions with the students about their faith,” Shannon added.
“The big thing I see is that parents or caregivers who come are encouraged to see their adult child getting actively involved in the liturgy and their adult child responding to the liturgy with reverence,” Wieser said. Added Shannon, “That’s what they look forward to, participation in the Mass.”
Special Faith Saturdays are scheduled Sept. 22 and Oct. 20 from 2:30-4:30 p.m.; Nov. 17, Dec. 8, Jan. 12, and Feb. 16 from 2-4 p.m.; and March 16 and May 18 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Mass begins at the end of each class. On April 7, the students are invited to attend the confirmation Mass at 10:30 a.m., either to be confirmed or to witness students with or without special needs receiving the sacrament. During the Oct. 20 session, Special Faith Saturdays’ students will learn about the sacrament of reconciliation from Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann’s and brother of Gerard, an adult with Down syndrome.
Each month’s class includes a lesson, craft activity and a snack. Students are invited to participate in Mass afterwards. Knights of Columbus councils from St. Ann and from Holy Family Parish in Davenport help financially support Special Faith Saturdays.
For more information, call Mary Wieser at (563) 320-0972 or Nancy Shannon at (563) 340-7350.