The National Directory for Catechesis states that:
“Persons with disabilities...are integral members of the Christian community. All persons with disabilities have the capacity to proclaim the Gospel and to be living witnesses to its truth within the community of faith and offer valuable gifts.”
In July, 2003, a need was identified at our parish. Our regular religious education program was not working well for those with special needs. Several programs were looked into at that time and we decided on the Spred program. Within a few years, we were wanting to expand beyond what the Spred program was able to do and became the Journey Program of Washington County.
In 2007, we added on service and community pieces to the program along with the educational element. This includes service during Journey sessions along with service within a friends’ parish or the greater Catholic community.
The number of Masses offered during a year were increased and moved from a Saturday daily Mass to the regular Saturday/Sunday Mass schedule. Originally all of the Masses were held at Saint Frances Cabrini in West Bend however we now hold them regularly at Saint Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Holy Angels and Saint Peter’s Parish in Slinger. Many of our friends now serve as regular ushers, Eucharistic Ministers, lectors and servers at their own parishes.
Sacramental preparation for both Reconciliation and First Communion is offered every other year with the alternate years Confirmation preparation is offered. We also offer RCIA for those friends wanting to become Catholic.
In 2017, we added a one-on-one instruction plan for those students who are unable to work well in group sessions due to physical, mental health or safety reasons. Lessons for all friends regardless of the group program or one-on-one are based on the Catechetical theme for the year. All lessons are taught at a friends’ level via verbal instruction, hands on learning, and relating it to how they can live Jesus’ teaching in their daily life. Service projects will often complement the lessons.
In 2018, we have added a social connection to our friends who are involved in the Journey program but also reach out to all with special needs. Some of the events are just for the Journey friends but others welcome those from all faiths and backgrounds.
Our main site presently is at Saint Frances Cabrini, however, we do travel to various parishes for one-on-one sessions. We are in the process of discerning satellite sites to help our friends at other parishes have access to the Journey Program.