|December 16, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 21 • Oakland, CA|
| SPRED names coordinator
Michelle Martinez-Kilty has been named the new coordinator for the Special Religious Education Department, succeeding Sister Aurora Perez who retired in June and has been serving as a consultant through the end of the year.
About five years ago, while attending an event at St. Jarlath, her parish in Oakland, Martinez-Kilty saw a longtime friend, Carmen Hartono, who at that time was working as a community religious worker for SPRED.
"I told her I was working with individuals with developmental disabilities," Martinez-Kilty said. Hartono replied: "I have a perfect volunteer opportunity for you. How much do you want to participate with your faith?"
Then the calls started coming to the young woman: "We'd like you to attend this Mass and be a catechist for this person you'll meet at the Mass."
She was convinced at the first Mass. "This is something totally different. This is something totally new," she said. "It combines something very personal that I love, which is my faith, with working with a population I love to work with, which is individuals with developmental disabilities."
SPRED is a one-to-one ministry, which each participant, called a friend, working with one catechist. The session includes time in an activity room, then moves to the celebration room for Scripture, song and a message.
Her friend, who was nonverbal, would stop short of the celebration room. Martinez-Kilty got a pair of stools.
"We would move the stools inch by inch to the room. Some weeks we would move it in by a foot, and then we'd have to take it back six inches," she said. " It worked. By the end of the SPRED year, she was in the celebration room, in the circle, with all of us. That was hard. But it was such an accomplishment."
They worked together for two years, until Martinez-Kilty moved to a different group. Now they see each other occasionally, sometimes at church, where Martinez-Kilty is greeted with a hug.
"It's so wonderful that she remembers," she said.
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