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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Need for Inclusive Catechesis

downloadQuestion

I have been teaching catechesis for the past eight years. Recently I was requested to prepare a twelve year old boy with Autism for his First Communion.  I told my coordinator that I was not trained to teach Special Needs children.  I became upset because I do not have the confidence and knowledge of what to teach.  He insisted that I could do it and that I should pray and trust in God.  He said there is no one else and that I am the most suitable person.  I really do not feel I am able to do it.  This is making me feel very guilty.  I really do not want to disappoint my Parish priest and the family.  What should I do?  Should I go ahead and try to help the boy?

Response

One of my first ministries, back when I was a teenage seminarian, was to teach the catechism to intellectually challenged children at a facility in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. I had no formal training. I was fresh out of high school. First, I did not panic. Secondly, I sought advice and guidance from people who already did such work. Third, I assessed the various needs for each of the children (they were not the same). Fourth, I sought to form a friendly relationship with them. I used images and employed a great deal of repetition. I tried to make the learning fun, even turning the study into a game with cards. As a kid I loved comics— and I used a comic book about Jesus with one young girl. Her language skills were poor but she loved pictures. Some liked to draw and color. The bishop was generous and told us that the children could receive the Eucharist if they could identify Holy Communion as Jesus. That is where I placed the emphasis. I would show a picture of the host and then an image of our Lord. I did the best I could. That is all the Pastor is asking of you. Parishes that have special education teachers are surely blessed; but most church communities must do without. You have decided to be a catechist. That means that you are called to teach children— not just the kids judged smart or quick, but also those viewed as slow or who process information differently. These children have as much a right to the faith and to your services as any other. If you were a parent, would you neglect a special child for those deemed “normal”? Push yourself and show everyone that inclusion matters. Every child is precious and irreplaceable. Every child has something to share. Give of yourself so that the “special” child may make a gift of himself for you to know.

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