New diocesan program opens for adults with special needs


By Barb Arland-Fye

Individuals with special needs ages 16 and older are invited to participate in the Davenport Diocese’s “Special Faith Saturdays” program that begins Feb. 19 at St. Ann Parish in Long Grove. The new program provides faith formation and socialization opportunities for persons preparing to receive the sacrament of confirmation as well as those who have already received the sacrament.

A number of parishes integrate children with special needs in their K-8 faith formation programs, including St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport, which invites other parishes to join its efforts. But programming for older youth and adults with special needs has been an unmet need.

“For many years I’ve wanted to see this ministry take place in the diocese,” said Msgr. Drake Shafer, pastor of St. Ann’s whose brother Gerard, 50, has Down syndrome and is looking forward to preparing for the sacrament of confirmation. “I realize that for older individuals with special needs there wasn’t a program to prepare them to receive this sacrament. I’m so glad that can happen now,” Msgr. Shafer added. “I am grateful to St. Ann’s parishioners and for their enthusiasm for this program.”

Mary Wieser, the diocese’s faith formation director, is seeking to identify individuals 16 and older who would be interested in special needs faith formation. They, their families or caregivers should contact her by Feb. 4. She, Msgr. Shafer and other organizers of Special Faith Saturdays have developed a four-session program that incorporates faith formation, social activities and Mass.


Nancy Shannon, a St. Ann’s parishioner, will serve as the main catechist for Special Faith Saturdays. A recently retired teacher who taught special education for 28 years in the Davenport Community School District, she felt drawn to this ministry. “This is something we’ve needed to do for a long time and there wasn’t anyone else stepping forward to do it. Now I have more time and I thought it was something I should do,” Shannon said.

She invites other teachers to volunteer their talents and skills with her for the monthly sessions that will be held Feb. 19, March 19, April 16 and May 21 beginning at 2:30 p.m. Sessions will conclude with Mass at St. Ann’s. Each session begins with social time, cookies and beverages.

Information will be shared with parents or caregivers, followed by catechesis. Then participants are invited to assist with the liturgy by helping to take up the collection, offertory gifts and handout the bulletins, Wieser said.

The culmination of Special Faith Saturdays will be a Special Needs Confirmation Mass to be celebrated Pentecost Sunday, June 12, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Ann’s with Bishop Martin Amos presiding.

Wieser said she is in awe of St. Ann’s and St. Paul the Apostle for their commitment to reach out to individuals with special needs in faith formation.

“Whether it’s with our elementary school-age youngsters or with our adults with special needs, we want to have effective relationships," she said. “They need to know that we are truly present and listening to them and that we share our faith with them, and that we celebrate our faith together, at Eucharist.”

Special Faith Saturdays

When: 2:30-4 p.m. Feb. 19; 2:30-4:30 p.m. March 19, April 16 and May 21, followed by Mass.

Where: St. Ann Parish in Long Grove.

Participation requirements: Individuals with special needs ages 16 and older.

Sacrament of confirmation celebration: Pentecost Sunday, June 12, St. Ann Catholic Church, Long Grove

Contact: Mary Wieser, director of Faith Formation for the Davenport Diocese at (563) 888-4241 or by e-mail at

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