In the Fall of 2014, I applied to take a training session to work at the libraries in our school district. I didn't make the "list" and while I felt a bit disappointed, I knew deep down in my heart that opportunity was not the one for me. My life was already very full of helping transition and guide Lauren through her first year of college, helping to manage my mother's care in a nursing home, co-teach a first grade religious education class, guiding my father through all the challenges of living alone and getting Dominic adjusted to middle school. At the back of my mind though, I had this feeling that I wanted to be doing more, but I just didn't know what that "more" was. I don't think I would qualify the way I felt to be a mid-life "crisis," but I definitely knew I had reached a "crossroads" in my life. I thought about looking for a job or going back to college. Neither of those two ideas seemed like the right "fit." I began to wonder if I even had the time to add anything more to my already full "plate." Sometimes, when you least expect it, a life-changing decision is made for you. Since last May, when Dominic made his First Holy Communion, I have been praying and hoping that maybe one day in the future there would be a Mass available for special needs children and adults. I wanted to create an environment where no one felt "different" and EVERYONE was welcome. Since I joined a disability ministry earlier this year as the program director, I had been working on making sure that would happen.
This past Sunday afternoon, we held our first Mass, the "inaugural" event for the ministry. I knew it wouldn't be perfect, but I also wanted to set the right tone and standard. One of the moms coming with her two special needs sons had requested that they be part of the Mass. She and I had communicated by e-mail several times before last Sunday, we were just about as prepared as we could be. I was filled with a nervous apprehension about how everything would go. Around noon, people started showing up. We had two gentlemen in wheelchairs and a bus full of adult men with developmental disabilities. With each new person that came through the door, my excitement built. When I walked in behind the priest and looked around the chapel full of people, I really had to stifle my tears. To have wanted something for 11 months and finally see it happen, was an incredible feeling. There simply were no words to describe it. After the Mass, we all went down to the dining room and had lunch. Every person in the room had a smile on their face and were talking to their neighbors at their table. When the group of young men were getting ready to leave to go back to the residential facility where they live, one of them came over to me, told me bye and then hugged me. I knew in that instant, if there was ever any doubt whatsoever in whether I have made the right "decision" to be part of the disability ministry, there was absolutely NO doubt. I have never been so sure of anything in my life! To add "icing to the cake," Monday morning, I received an e-mail from the mom who had her sons participate in the Mass. This particular sentence has stuck with me this whole week, "I can't tell you how great it was as a parent watching my kids fulfill their desire to participate in the Mass, I saw them shine." Anybody got a tissue?!?!!?