The 10th annual World Down Syndrome Day Lenten Retreat at St. Andrews Church in New Haven, Indiana, brings blessings, hopes, to brighten future.
Young adults from the Down syndrome community and their families were blessed by the Franciscan Brothers Friars Minor and Sisters Minor on Saturday, March 21st. They gathered for the first annual “Lenten Retreat” to celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Down syndrome Day. For these young people, being different is normal. The sad truth is that 61-93% of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased from 12 years in 1949 to 60 years today. Families today are blessed with social awareness and organizations devoted to educating and helping these people dream dreams and reach goals that were before unheard of. Society is slowly becoming aware of the value and worth of these special people, and their families breathe easier and give sounds of relief. The mere fact that there has been a World Down syndrome Day for ten years now is a major victory in the eyes of many. The young adults joined in with the Brothers and Sisters for prayer, fun projects, snacks and all around good camaraderie with each other. The Brothers helped the boys with prayer, a project making a cross of wooden clothes pins, a grand tour of the outdoor premises, explaining the daily prayer and life of a Franciscan Brother. They also answered all the questions the boys had with loving kindness and help them understand their faith more fully. A fun ball game played, kept their energy to the summit. Our theme of “loving one another” (Jn 13:34-35) permeated and surrounded the afternoon.
The Sisters in turn did the same with the girls. They had such fun making what St. Theresa the Little Flower, called her sacrifice or “Good Deed Beads”. A small line of beads she kept in her pocket as a child, to help her count the gifts she did, to offer to God. The beads can be pulled and remain in place so they can “count” the good acts of love in a day. With the Sisters they prayed a decade of the rosary and even reflected on favorite decades themselves. It was a time of true blessings for the girls and Sisters, along with proud parents looking on. You could feel the words from Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Our theme of “Love one another” was assiduous throughout the entire time spent together that day. They played games, and also toured the grounds pointing out the simple beauty of God’s lovely creations. Inside once again with the Sisters, the girls made lovely Lenten collages, all the while talking with the Sisters who guided them with gentle hands and loving words. One young girl “said it all” more or less, on her way home. “Mom, I want to be a Sister”! One of the Brothers has Down syndrome also, and on their tour remarked to a mom, lovingly, “Maybe your son could live here when he is 18 years old too? “There are no words to express the pure joy in the heart of these lovely mothers that day. I think all the families were grateful and pleased our first annual Down Syndrome Day was a success.
We are surely in debt to the wonderful Franciscans and their Minister General, Father David Mary Engo F.F.M. for all their help and were blessed indeed with beautiful color photographs of St. Robert Bellarmine the patron Saint of the Down syndrome community along with lovely prayer cards, special rosary intentions and wonderful information about their patron Saint, sent to us by the www.saintfordownsyndrome.org website. Last, but not least, we are most grateful and send our loving thanks to Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. in Philadelphia, PA for remembering us during his Holy Mass for all people with disabilities at the Cathedral Basilica, celebrated on the same day, for our success. Wonderful memories were savored and tucked away for special keeping by all who attended.
Alice A. Nolan Obl.S.B.