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An Interview with Matt Chicoine

by Gordon Nary

Gordon: To which parish do you belong and what do you find most spiritually beneficial about your parish?

Matt: I am a member of St. Lambert’s Parish in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is a vibrant community of faith. Both the laity and our priests have a strong relationship with Jesus.

Gordon: What do you believe are our responsibilities to evangelize?

Matt: We are called to preach the Good News to everyone (Matthew 28:19) in both truth and charity.

Gordon: Who was your favorite author when you were in first grade and why?

Matt: R.S. Stine. I read and collected all the Goosebumps books. I also enjoyed reading Roald Dahl’s works.

Gordon: When and why did you decide to become a journalist?

Matt: I felt called to become a writer and promoter of the Catholic faith to the masses about five years ago. After much prayer and discernment, I realized that God gave me the gift to write. Instead of hoarding that gift, I am sharing it with the world by discussing the joy of Catholicism and how Jesus is life-changing.

Gordon: What are some of the publications for which you write?

Matt: I have been published in Catholic Insight and Homiletic and Pastoral Review in the past. Currently, I write, Catholic Exchange, Voyage Comics, and my own personal blog The Simple Catholic.

Gordon: Two of your children have autism. What have you learned about raising autistic children that can be of help to other parents?

Matt: Patience. Learn to be patient with your children. Communication and direct teaching have also been something that greatly benefits our children. Setting clear expectations and following through consistently leads to improvement at home and school.

Gordon: How has having autistic children made you a better parent?

Matt: I have become more patient, empathetic, and improved my communication skills. Paying attention to little details and learning how to list out things step by step are other ways I have improved as a parent.

Gordon: What are some of the common misconceptions about autism?

Matt: Two come to mind right away: that all people with autism are the same and it has physical indicators. Many people have told my wife or me, “Your sons don’t look like they have autism.” Well, that is because it is an invisible diagnosis. It is a social communication disorder and is a spectrum meaning there are varying degrees. My older son is higher functioning than my younger son. Both have autism but it is different in each of them.

Gordon: What was your concern when you learned about the autistic boy was denied the First Communion because of the claim that he couldn’t tell right from wrong?

Matt: He was being denied the most important thing in life—the Body of Christ. The news made me sad that the world (and the Church) has a long way to go in understanding autism.

Gordon: What can parishes do to teach parishioners about autism and make autistic children welcome?

Matt: That sometimes autistic children get overwhelmed easily with too loud noises, bright lights, or flavors of food. This does not make them picky or obstinate. Rather, their senses are heightened, and it can be difficult to filter out information when it is all being received at once. Exercising patience and asking the children questions will go a long way in making them feel welcome.

Gordon: Thank you for a great interview that will be helpful to many.

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