News
Shepherd's Flock: Faith formation for children with special needs

April is Autism Awareness Month, and over the last 10 years, Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C. has established the Shepherd’s Flock ministry in response to the growing needs of families who request religious education for children with special needs. The request was prompted by parents’ deep desires to see their children participate fully in the life of the Church, including the traditions of faith and the celebration of Eucharist and Confirmation. Shepherd’s Flock Ministry offers faith formation and sacramental preparation for these individuals.

As the ministry grew and as parents and parish staff discerned more fully the particular needs of these families, they worked together to create an intergenerational ministry that serves children and their families. The “special needs” catechesis, called the Atrium model, was developed by parents and catechists over the course of several years and is based on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd that is part of the Montessori method of faith formation for children.

Since Holy Trinity’s Shepherd’s Flock Ministry began, the number of families in the special needs community has more than doubled, and now includes four dedicated lead catechists who are all trained in the Montessori Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Dr. Linda Campanelli serves as founding member of the Shepherd’s Flock Ministry and the Atrium program. As she pointed out, group trainings have allowed Shepherd’s Flock catechists to share their experiences and provide crucial support for one another.

Children prepare for First Communion and Confirmation through Shepherd’s Flock, and receive the sacraments as they are capable and when they are ready.

Shepherd’s Flock monthly liturgies, held on Saturday afternoons, are joyful times for families who are part of this community. Judith Brusseau, the pastoral associate for faith formation and religious education, said, “The joy of the children and their families as we celebrate always touches me deeply. Children, who might otherwise not be invited to serve as a lector, cantor or minister of hospitality, shine as they serve the community.”

The closing hymn, “We are Dancing,” is always the same, and is marked by children with special needs and their families weaving their way around Holy Trinity’s St. Ignatius Chapel.





Recent News

Nov. 8, 2019 - Pope Francis recently addressed 210 participants in the congress of the 50th anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, accompanied by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa SJ.

Nov. 6, 2019 - Last month, hundreds of Jesuit-educated alumni and friends of the Society gathered at 23 parishes and schools for the fifth annual Jesuit Friends and Alumni Sunday Masses.

Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, S.J., is appointed the first provincial for the Jesuits USA East Province. He will assume office on July 31, 2020.

Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ, has officially decreed the uniting of the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces into one USA East Province, effective July 31, 2020.

The Jesuits of Washington, D.C. joined together at Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel to celebrate those with jubilee years in the Society of Jesus.

October 10, 2019 — Jesuits urge Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan to promote moral and ethical treatment of migrants.

Youth preparing for Confirmation at St. Peter Church in Charlotte, NC, helped plant 300 trees as part of the Season of Creation - Feast of St. Francis.

view all news

Search news

Publications

JESUITS Magazine: Spring/Summer 2019

JESUITS Magazine: Fall/Winter 2018

JESUITS Magazine: Summer 2018



Ignatius House Retreat Center
For more than 50 years, the Ignatius House Retreat Center has been open to individuals of all faiths seeking a closer relationship with God.