By Gordon Nary
Gordon: When and why did your join Queen of Angels Parish?
Julia: I joined in 1973 following the death of my 6--year- old daughter, Jennifer. She had been invited to enter a SPRED community following heart surgery. That same SPRED community invited me to join them as a volunteer catechist in her memory although it was not my own parish. I did and it became a life- changing experience for me.
Gordon: It is incomprehensible for many to comprehended the loss of a child and its effect on one's life. Please comment on your experience with SPRED Satellite Resource Center and your primary responsibilities in this ministry. Julia;
After volunteering as a SPRED catechist for 14 years, I was asked to accept a position of employment with SPRED in 1987 as a community religious worker to advance the development of SPRED and assure the quality as a mentor to SPRED parish based communities. Queen of Angels is my parish. My husband and I had developed 3 SPRED communities at Queen of Angels so I established a Satellite center for training and observation there. My responsibilities are:
1. The formation of new SPRED communities in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago and neighboring dioceses,
2. Mentor existing SPRED communities to assure quality programs and collaboration with other parishes,
3. Provide training and enrichment opportunities for SPRED catechists,
4. Develop future leadership (trainers and animators). I also participate in my own SPRED community at Queen of Angels Parish
Gordon: What are some of the disabilities that people have in your ministry?
Julia: SPRED welcomes children and adults with cognitive & developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, down syndrome (or any other genetic disorder) ADD, those on the autism spectrum as well as those with multiple and undefined disorders.
Gordon: The SPRED website details the location of SPRED Ministries If a parish is interested in providing a SPRED Ministry, what are some of the preliminary issues that you suggest a parish consider?
Julia: The parish needs to know that it will take ownership of the program by choosing a parish representative (a SPRED Chairperson) on behalf of the families and the program. The parish provides a meeting space and includes the SPRED ministry on the parish calendar. The parish is willing to supplement any financial needs not covered by the Knights of Columbus. The parish supports the quality of the program by making sure that all of the volunteers attend the necessary training. The parish provides opportunities for integration into the sacramental and worship and social life of the parish.
Gordon: Could you share an overview of how SPRED has helped enhance your faith?
Julia: My participation in SPRED has opened my mind and my heart to a new way of thinking about the faith formation of all people. I now see faith, sacraments, Church and my own personal relationship with God through a new lens. To honor our Friends with special needs of all ages and respect their capacity to love and relate to others, SPRED offers a fresh approach. Friendship is the heart of our journey toward a deeper awareness of God in all of life; a sense of the sacredness of all beings; and the realization that Church is all about belonging – finding a place of unconditional acceptance and love freely given.
Gordon: Could you share with our readers one of the most rewarding experiences that you have had in your SPRED Ministry?
Julia: I was honored to be a part of the faith journey of one young man from childhood until his death in his 30s. He had multiple and severe challenges. Others questioned his ability to enter meaningful relationships or grasp any sense of God or the sacredness of life. He had little ability to articulate through formal speech, but he was able to communicate through his eyes, his sounds and his actions. He clearly demonstrated a spirit of reverence through prayer and song and a deep desire to connect with others. He embraced the SPRED method; his SPRED community and all who he met in life. His death came much later in life than foretold. His dedicated and loving parents, as well as all his relationships in life kept him going beyond anyone’s imagining. He has a special place with his loving God today and a warm place in the hearts of many.
Gordon: What are some of the opportunities that SPRED has if there was additional funding support?
Julia: With more funds, we could support the needs of the SPRED Center – the meeting rooms for observation & training; office supplies and equipment; the center for hospitality following Family Masses; general upkeep of the place; and salaries for more community religious workers. We need a minimum of four more field workers/coordinators.
Gordon: Please let our readers know how they can make a donation to SPRED?.
Julia: You may visit the website www.spred-chicago.org and make and on-line donation. Or you can send a donation to the SPRED center at 2956 S. Lowe Ave. Chicago IL 60616. Checks are payable to Mamre Inc. the fund