Sister Kathleen Schipani
Sister Kathleen Schipani
A day-long in-service workshop designed to assure the Church can reach all people with its teaching will be offered Nov. 18, 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, 61 Georgia Rd., Freehold.

“Encountering All God’s Children: Adapting catechetical and sacramental preparation for people with disabilities” will benefit Catholic faith communities and educators in the Diocese of Trenton who encounter families with many different disabilities and special needs.

“Many families here in our Diocese include a member with a disability,” said Denise Contino, director of the diocesan Department of Catechesis. “Keeping this in mind, the mission of the Church is to offer each family – and every member within each family – an opportunity to grow in faith, participate in the Sacraments and to be integrated into the life of the parish community.” 

The in-service is open to pastors, priests, parish and school leaders, catechists and teachers of the Diocese. Speaker for the workshop will be Servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Kathleen Schipani, director of the Office for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Apostolate, Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

“This workshop will provide a theological and ecclesial perspective of the mission of inclusion in parish religious education and Catholic school,” said Sister Kathleen. “The new Directory for Catechesis and Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments will be used as a spring board to explore a variety of models of inclusion, universal design for learning, effective teaching methods and resources that create an environment where all learn and flourish in their faith and in the community.”

The workshop is sponsored by the Department of Catechesis, the diocesan Holy Innocents Society and the Tom and Glory Sullivan Foundation, Inc. – a fund that awards grants for various projects of the Catholic Church, with an emphasis on education.

“The Diocese is committed to assisting those who minister among people with special needs,” Contino continued, “especially among school-aged children in parish catechetical programs, Catholic schools, or regional Holy Innocents Society Chapters. We want to be certain that our parishes and schools are equipped with the necessary tools to offer faith formation and sacramental preparation to families who look to us for help and guidance.”

Brenda L. Rascher, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services, acts as the delegate for Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., for this group. 

“For decades, the members of the Holy Innocents Society (HIS) have ministered to the catechetical needs of parishioners with special needs,” Rascher explained.  “While this aspect of its mission built its foundation, which will continue, the HIS was created to do even more.”

Adaptive programs from Loyola Press will be made available at the workshop to each attending parish, school and Holy Innocents Society Chapter.

“Disabilities and special needs are so vast, and publishers like Loyola Press are ahead of the times,” she pointed out.  “This in-service will offer resources and tools that offer modern catechesis and sacramental preparation that is uniquely modified to the person with a disability or special need ... and will result in an easier and more inclusive experience for disabilities and special needs here in the Diocese.”

Sister Kathleen has a master’s degree in special education from The College of New Jersey, Ewing, a certificate in American Sign Language Studies from Gallaudet University, Washington, and a bachelor of arts degree in both theology and English from Immaculata University, Pa. She has 40 years of teaching experience with children and adults of all abilities, and for the past 30 years has been a catechist for children and adults who are Deaf. She has collaborated in international and national projects related to disabilities, presented workshops and trainings, and co authored teacher guides and DVD curricula to prepare individuals who are Deaf for the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Confirmation.

Rascher encouraged the faithful to become involved in assisting the mission of the Holy Innocents Society.

“In the months to come, you will be learning more about the HIS, so stay tuned,” she said. “When called to join HIS to be a part of building and achieving even more for those with special needs, we hope you will respond with a resounding ‘Yes!’”    

For more information on the workshop, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/all-gods-children-11-18-21, or email Debbie D’Agostaro, ddagos@dioceseoftrenton.org.