Diocese offers prayer book in Braille

By Peggy Moraczewski
Correspondent

With the recent publication of a prayer book in Braille, the diocesan Religious Education and Formation Department has moved forward in their quest to help individuals with special needs grow in their spiritual life.
Prompted by a catechist in the diocese who is blind, the department went to work researching available resources. Dr. Phi Le, associate director for Multicultural Catechesis, and Gustavo Rodriguez, associate director for Hispanic Catechesis, recently attended a special needs conference in Houston and a ministry conference in Los Angeles. They returned with a wealth of religious education resources, including helpful information for publishing a prayer book in Braille. 
Subsequently, Dr. Geri Telepak, who retired as the diocesan director of Religious Education and Formation on June 30, worked with the Xavier Society for the Blind to have the new prayer book in Braille published. 
“The prayer book is currently in stock and available through the department,” Telepak said before she retired.
A donation by the 2014 Confirmation class at St. Paul Chong Hasang Parish in Harker Heights helped defray costs of publication of the new prayer book. It is available to anyone, whether they reside within the boundaries of the diocese, or not. For a copy, call (512) 949-2461 or e-mail carolyn-
martinez@austindiocese.org. 
Working hand-in-hand with parish directors of religious education (DREs) and offering training for catechists, as well as researching and sharing high quality materials and resources, is a primary goal of the diocesan Religious Education and Formation Department. Carolyn Martinez works as the administrative assistant for the department, and she is also a parent and a catechist. She has spent countless hours researching special needs websites and has updated the department website to reflect her findings.
Loyola Press is one of the noted sources that offers adaptive resources and products to help individuals with autism and other special needs learn about the Catholic faith. Sacramental preparation kits for Reconciliation, First Eucharist and Confirmation provide a unique approach to learning, while other resources offer ideas for communication between catechists and parents of children with special needs.
Many parishes have ministries offering services to those with special needs and the parish DRE is a good source of information, Telepak said. 
“It is important for the DRE and catechist to ask the parents of children with special needs for their advice in order to understand what educational approaches best fit the needs of their child. We all have needs and we are all special,” she said. 
Misty Carreiro, Community Ministries Director at St. Catherine of Sienna Parish in Austin, describes their Open Hearts ministry as “designed to help integrate a person with developmental or intellectual disabilities into the life of the parish.” Open Hearts invites individuals with disabilities, along with a family member, to monthly gatherings where they share a meal, prayer and fellowship. Currently, about 35 people participate in this ecumenical ministry. 
The Deaf Ministry at St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin offers pastoral services to adults and youth who are hearing impaired. Services include sign language interpreting at the 11:15 a.m. Sunday Mass, religious education classes, sacramental preparation and a new adult Bible study that will be offered this fall. 
Sarah Bannon, Liaison for the Deaf Ministry, said, “Approximately 10 deaf individuals participated in the classes last year; two received their First Eucharist and two converted to Catholicism.” 
While addressing priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome on June 16, Pope Francis said, “If every parish embodies the virtues of compassion, tenderness, patience and welcoming, the Catholic Church will be the mother she claims to be and will continue to generate numerous children.” May we continue to welcome all into our parish communities.
From the Editor: Dr. Geri Telepak retired at the end of June after serving the Diocese of Austin for more than a decade. Her personal plans include making daily exercise a priority, as well as spending more time enjoying her grandchildren. Her replacement has not been announced.

Department Categorization: