Persons with development disabilities meet in small faith communities to foster spiritual development.
The goal of SPRED is to assist parish churches to integrate persons with developmental disabilities and persons with learning problems into parish worship through the process of faith development.
How We Reach Our Goal
- We help people in local Churches to become aware of the needs of persons with developmental disabilities. We show them how SPRED can assist them in responding to their needs.
- We provide materials for the religious development of our participants with disabilities and for catechist preparation.
- We provide opportunities for observation as a learning tool for parish leaders, families, prospective volunteers, and others.
- We provide training courses.
- We provide family liturgies as a way of incorporating persons with disabilities into parish worship.
Three Possible Roles for Catechists
The Helper Catechist
Each person with special needs who attends SPRED must have an adult volunteer from the same parish that will be a one-on-one model and assistant for the person with special needs.
The Activity Catechist
The Activity Catechist prepares the SPRED center environment with its many activities and assists the community toward a readiness to experience God’s presence and love in their ordinary life.
The Leader Catechist
With the support of the total SPRED community, the Leader Catechist guides the group through the special style of catechesis offered by SPRED. Through symbol and scripture, the leader assists each member of the group to interpret and celebrate life.
Religious education and faith development will be available through the SPRED program for persons with developmental disabilities and/or learning disabilities.
By sponsoring a SPRED group, the parish makes religious education available for persons who, because of their disabilities, might not otherwise have the opportunity for growth in faith. To facilitate this new service the parish will appoint a chairperson.
The work of the chairperson is to locate persons with disabilities in the parish, locate workers to join the group, see to it that the workers (catechists) receive SPRED training, and arrange for the use of appropriate space.
Through the chairperson, SPRED services become available to the person with disabilities.
Small Group Homes
A second chairperson can be designated for SPRED participants who live in small group homes.
SPRED Age Groups
SPRED communities gather persons according to chronological age: 6-10 years of age, 11-16, 17-21, and 22+. Some groups gather children and teens who have learning problems but do not have developmental disabilities.
Elements of a SPRED Session
SPRED participants meet twelve times annually. There are six meetings in the fall and six more in the spring.
The Gathering & Preparation
Persons with varying learning abilities arrive and are warmly greeted by the catechists and other friends. A time of preparation follows, during which each person with learning disabilities and each Helper Catechist, silently enjoys individual, sensorial activities such as painting, building, weaving, or tasting. The Activity Catechist prepares the activities and assists all participants in their use. The purpose of this period of preparation is to become calm and ready for prayer.
The Celebration of Life and God’s Word
Next, everyone moves to the celebration room. Here the Leader Catechist presents a symbol that will evoke a meaningful memory from everyone in the group. After a time of exploring the symbol and sharing memories, the leader catechist gathers the memories that have been shared and connects them to a gospel message. The Gospel message is proclaimed and becomes an experience of God’s Word. The celebration concludes with silent reflection and song.
The Agape/Sharing of Food
The final segment of the SPRED sessions is called Agape. Agape is a communal meal held by a Christian community. All the SPRED participants, catechists and persons with disabilities set the table, share food and good conversation as the session draws to a close.
How Can I Help?
- Volunteer to be a Leader, Helper, or Activity Catechist.
- Volunteer to use your gifts and talents in the SPRED center (painting, cleaning, organizing, etc.).
- Provide information about SPRED to families with a child who has special needs.
- Become involved in fundraising or grant writing. Donate any handcrafted items to be sold at craft fairs.
- Pray for the success of SPRED.
SPRED Centers in the Worcester Diocese
Four parishes of the Diocese of Worcester have SPRED centers. They are located at St. Andrew the Apostle in Worcester, St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough, Madonna of the Holy Rosary in Fitchburg, and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Webster.
Diocesan SPRED Coordinator
St. Andrew the Apostle Mission
5 Spaulding St., Worcester
Chairperson for SPRED and DRE
St. Luke the Evangelist
70 West Main St., Westborough
Chairperson for SPRED Center
Madonna of the Holy Rosary,
Hope St., Fitchburg
Chairperson for SPRED and CRE
Sacred Heart of Jesus,
16 East Main St., Webster
Tax Deductible Donations may be made to:
Office of Religious Ed – SPRED
Diocese of Worcester
49 Elm Street
Worcester, MA 01609