By Barb Arland-Fye
Special Faith Saturdays provides an opportunity for individuals with developmental disabilities in the Davenport Diocese to learn about their faith, enjoy each other’s company and participate as fully as possible in the Mass.
This year’s program focuses on the sacraments and begins Sept. 28 at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove, which has been hosting Special Faith Saturdays since its inception three years ago.
Individuals with developmental disabilities, ages 16 and up, from throughout the Davenport Diocese are invited to participate in this free program. Special Faith Saturday classes meet from 2-4 p.m. Sept. 28, Oct. 26, Nov. 16, Dec. 14, Jan. 11, Feb. 22, March 22, April 26 and May 17. Mass follows at St. Ann’s.
“This year we’re really going to concentrate on the sacraments. We’ll cover one each month,” said Nancy Shannon, coordinator of Special Faith Saturdays.
“If any of our class members have not received the sacraments, we’ll have materials for their parents or caregivers to enable those class members to receive the sacraments at their own parish or at St. Ann’s if that is appropriate,” added Mary Wieser, diocesan director of faith formation. St. Ann’s pastor, Msgr. Drake Shafer, “does a wonderful job of getting our participants ready for reconciliation,” she added. That sacrament will be the focus of the October class.
In addition to learning about their Catholic faith in a style tailored to their needs, participants engage in craft activities, have a snack and rehearse their roles for Mass. Some serve as ushers, lectors and gift bearers if they so choose.
“The thing that’s really neat about it is that parishioners look forward to the Mass every month with Special Faith Saturdays’ participants,” said Shannon, a member of St. Ann’s and a retired special education teacher.
Participants don’t need to worry if they miss a class or two. But participants do enjoy seeing each other from month to month and return year after year. “They’re building their own little faith community,” Wieser said.
“It’s as much a social group as a learning group. We know we never stop learning,” Shannon observed. “There is a need for lifelong faith formation. This is what we’re trying to do for our participants,” Wieser added. Parents and caregivers also get something out of the program. They’re building friendships, too, she added.
Each class begins with instruction on the sacraments, followed by craft activity; snack; discussion about the weekend readings for Mass; practicing roles for Mass; and participation in the Mass. Special Faith Saturdays uses “Gospel Weeklies,” the curriculum used by St. Ann’s faith formation program, but adapted to meet the needs of participants.
Special Faith Saturdays has several benefactors who make it possible for the program to be offered free of charge. “We are blessed with the Knights of Columbus from St. Ann’s and Holy Family Parish in Davenport who subsidize the cost for our programming,” Wieser said. “People need to know that the Tootsie Roll Drive (a Knights of Columbus fundraiser) is having an impact in the schools and in the parish communities.”
The program also benefits from Shannon’s expertise in special education and her commitment to the Catholic faith. “This was something that was needed by the diocese,” Shannon said of Special Faith Saturdays. “Our participants need to know the parts of the Mass so that they can participate to the best of their ability. They need to understand what’s happening and why we do it.”
Wieser adds, “If the liturgy is the work of the people, then all of the people should be involved.”
Special Faith Saturday classes meet from 2-4 p.m. monthly in the parish hall at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Long Grove. Mass follows at St. Ann’s.
Special Faith Saturdays’ class schedule for 2013-14:
Sept. 28, Sacrament of baptism
Oct. 26, Sacrament of reconciliation — individuals
Nov. 16, Sacrament of Eucharist
Dec. 14, Birth of Jesus, Christmas cards for Kahl Home
Jan. 11, Sacrament of confirmation
Feb. 22, Sacrament of matrimony — family, living single; Lent — Ash Wednesday
March 22, Easter Cards
April 26, Sacrament of holy orders
May 17, Dinner following Mass for all family members
Other important dates: March 29, Jr. Class, confirmation