THE BLESSINGS OF AUTISM:
Kym Wright, a contributor to the web blog Crosswalk.com, writes about the lessons she’s learned from her son who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many articles and books are published about the challenges of autism and the negative impact it has on families. This mother, like many other parents, celebrates the joy and blessings Autism brings. the following are some of the positive outcomes Kym attributes to raising a child with Autism:
* A raised awareness of the differences all people possess.
*Recognition of the unique gifts disability brings forth: Compassion, insight, wisdom and patience.
*An increase in my self-confidence to stand up to uninformed health providers.
*A strengthened marriage as my husband and I feel united in our shared discipleship.
*Relying on my Faith as my source ofenergy and strength when I’m physically exhausted.
*The gift of humility in accepting imperfect behavior in my son and in other children.
*A discovery of my creativity in raising all my children.
*The ability to maintain a long-term vision of my dream for my child.
*The desire to reach out to others who hurt.
*The ability to find resolution to hurtful situations in my life.
*The acquired skill to solicit solutions rather then sympathy.
*Learning to trust in God’s plan when I didn’t know what to do.
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A Corporal Work of Mercy:
“Feed the Hungry”
By: Deacon Jerry Jablonwoski
Executive Director, VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services
Traditionally, when we seek to practice the Corporal Work of Mercy to Feed the Hungry, we focus our efforts on the poor, the marginalized, the homeless, and those in under developed countries who do not receive adequate food or nutrition on a daily basis. In our faith response, we contribute to local food drives, participate in stocking community food banks, help out at local homeless shelters, or contribute money to international hunger relief agencies like Catholic Relief Services, to help alleviate the pain of hunger both locally and throughout the world. These works are certainly all acts of great mercy and share in the call to compassion as Disciples of Christ.
Also, however, in performing this wonderful work of mercy, we must not lose our focus on our elderly brothers and sisters right here in our own families, our communities, and our parishes. Malnutrition and the effects of improper diet take on many forms in the frail elderly. It not only causes stress on the body and the discomforting pains of hunger, but also, the associated ills of chronic medical conditions can be made worse through an improper diet. It remains our Christian obligation to see that the elderly are adequately taken care of physically, emotionally, and spiritually, with an awareness of this need for proper nutrition.
The mere act of eating and sharing a meal with another person, brings emotional uplifting to an otherwise lonely elderly individual who, day in and day out, must eat alone in the confines of their own kitchen. Joining another for a meal is certainly an act of mercy in many instances. Just as Jesus used the occasion of meals to share His teaching, His mercy, and His life with us, we too are called to see the spiritual benefits derived from that same act. Feeding the hungry, and joining them in that meal, is a great act of mercy and love.
Physical health is dependent so often on the nutritional condition of the elderly person. Eating the right foods and assuring adequate (not over abundance) of daily calories is essential for good health and the highest quality of life. Too often in our compassionate efforts to feed the hungry, we fail to recognize the health implications in the food we offer. Attached are a few tips directed to the elderly or to those charged with their nutritional well-being. If we’re going to practice mercy by our efforts to help provide them food, it’s important that we maximize the health benefits and reduce the risks that improper diet can bring about in the health status of an aging individual. To eat well is to live well. Certainly the most vulnerable among us deserve to live well.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated.
Choose foods that provide the nutrients needed without too many calories. Build a healthy plate of food with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein foods. Try these eating right tips:
- Make half the plate fruits and vegetables. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables. Fresh and frozen are the best! Add fresh fruit to meals, salads and snacks.
- Make at least half the grains whole. Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Also, look for fiber-rich cereals.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help keep bones healthy. Include three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese each day. If lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
- Vary protein choices. Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts, and beans and peas, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs.
- Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt. Make major sources of saturated fats such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs occasional choices, not every day foods. Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Select fruit for dessert.
- Following these simple eating tips will ensure that as we feed the hungry among our elderly, we are contributing to their overall health and well-being. This brings our work of mercy to an even higher level of compassion and concern.
For more information on caring for the elderly or with any questions or concerns, feel free to call the VITALity Resource and Referral Help-Line at 888-26-VITALity (888-268-4825) or visit our web-site www.vitality.camdendiocese.org
VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services. A Healthcare Ministry of the Diocese of Camden.
A Corporal Work of Mercy:
Visiting the Sick
As a Church, we are all called to discipleship in Christ. The mission of today’s disciples must be reflected through the actions of the Church in response to the needs of others. In light of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are challenged to carry out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy — actions which extend God’s mercy and compassion through us to those in need. The corporal works of mercy are loving acts of kindness by which we help others with their physical and material basic human needs in order to provide sustenance and dignity in life and after death. An essential act of a disciple being compliant in these works of mercy is manifested through visiting and comforting the sick. As revealed through sacred Scripture, the words of Jesus bring us to appreciate this call: “For I was … ill and you cared for me…. Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:35-40). The greatest pain of sickness, chronic illness, disability or the advancing frailty of aging is isolation from family and friends and social and community participation. Isolation from Church often occurs as a progressive reality of sickness and frailty and separates one from the comforts of their place of worship, prayer and fellow- ship with their faith community of parishioners. People struggling with illness may even become separated from the most profound nourishment of the Eucharist in this time of most need and desire for the Sacrament. Families are often called upon to be the primary caregivers for ill and aging parents, giving them an opportunity to remain connected to home life through this demonstration of a most profound expression of sacrificial love. The Church, as represented both through the regional diocese and the local parish, must also play a role in this work of mercy through health care ministries that support the efforts of the faithful and extend the healing hands of Jesus to those who are ill or infirm. The Church is called to provide resources and opportunities for parishioners and professionals to reach out and care for those who are sick, disabled or aging. One such example of living this corporal work of mercy can be found in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, under the leadership of Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan. With Healthcare Foundation, established to provide the financial resources required, the diocese has established Vitality Catholic Healthcare Services to support parish nursing, Stephen Ministries, care coordination, senior day centers and a nonmedical home care service. In addition, the diocese fully funds a robust hospital chaplaincy program, providing pastoral visitation, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, prayer services and availability of the Eucharist throughout southern New Jersey hospitals and nursing homes. Such services keep the faithful connected with their parish communities and break down the walls of isolation, thereby engaging and encouraging our Catholic faithful to participate in the corporal work of mercy to visit the sick.
By Deacon Gerard Jablonowski
Deacon Gerard Jablonowski is Executive Director of Vitality Catholic Healthcare Services in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey.
Prayers and Resources Dedicated to the Corporal Work of Mercy to “Visit the Sick”
A Call to Mercy: Embrace the Stranger
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, as we focus our attention on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, during the month of January, our faith also challenges us to an overarching aspect of mercy, to “embrace the stranger”. To engage in relationship those individuals whom we do not know or often refuse to know due to their differences in their physical abilities or behaviors. They have often become “strangers” to us. God calls us constantly to break down the walls of division that separate us from our brothers and sisters. As people of faith, through our Baptismal call to discipleship, we can be the bridge to these individuals and families who are searching for ways to more integrate themselves into parish life.
The “differences” associated with physical challenges among persons with disabilities are often times easier to perceive and accept within our parish communities. Special accommodative adaptations such as wheelchair access, braille signage, and enhanced hearing devices or ASL interpretive practices during Mass are just a few of the ways to help all feel welcome and engaged in our Liturgy. But, a more subtle form of isolation is experienced by those with cognitive, emotional, or behavioral health problems. Just walking into the church full of people or a social function can be a paralyzing and painful experience. This is particularly challenging for an individual on the Autism spectrum, who might react with behaviors which provide a soothing outlet for this sensory overload. Some may shutdown, curl up to try to escape the encounter. They may call out abruptly, and find the need to move around within the environment to deal with the overwhelming external stimuli. How fellow parishioners react in these situations can so often create a lasting feeling of them and their families being “unwelcome” within their own worshiping community. Unwarranted comments, along with glares or stares, are strongly received as signs of being unwelcome.
We can become the advocate for those struggling in these situations and intervene in any way possible to extend our hands of welcome and healing. Perhaps you can introduce yourselves to these individuals and their families and ask them about ideas as to how to improve their experience at Mass or other parish functions. Maybe attend a parish Council or Liturgy Planning Committee and be a voice for them to introduce accommodations or offer education to fellow parishioners on the concepts of welcome and acceptance to those who live and struggle with these behaviors. These actions, along with many other ideas for creating a more “welcoming” faith community, will help us all better understand the call of Mercy and Compassion toward one another.