Diocese to offer the first Msgr. Sabourin Vacation Bible Camp for People with Disabilities

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PROVIDENCE — The Office of the Apostolate for People with Disabilities and St. Patrick Church will offer the first Msgr. Sabourin Vacation Bible Camp for People with Disabilities. The camp will take place at St. Patrick Church on Smith Street from 9:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m., from July 23- 27. Children and teenagers ages 6-17 years old are welcome to attend.

Irma I. Rodríguez, director of the Apostolate for People with Disabilities for the Diocese of Providence, explained that her office has received many requests from people with disabilities and their families to continue the diocesan Special Religious Education program (SPRED) during the summer.

“One of the reasons I wanted to have the camp is that I have been looking for ways to help families with persons with disabilities, especially those who have many physical and/or intellectual challenges, to feel welcome, to have an experience of community and to be able to participate in the liturgical life of our wonderful church,” she said. “What could be better than an event just for them, of fun things to do, while experiencing the love and presence of God in a series of faith-filled, well-planned activities in one of our churches?”

Campers will take part in daily Mass, scripture reading, prayer journals that participants will take home, arts and crafts, movies, games, sensorial activities, singing and dancing. The camp is designed to have one volunteer for each person with a disability plus several adults in charge of different areas or aspects of the camp. A family member is welcome to stay if the family deems it necessary for the success of the participation of the camper. All adult volunteers will have the Diocesan Safe Environment Training, which includes Criminal Background Investigation.

“I hope they feel and experience love, that they are not just included, but that they know and feel that they belong, just like any of us,” said Rodríguez. “I hope that families will feel at home and that this experience will encourage them to come every week to Sunday Mass and to as many parish events as possible. I hope the families will seek the sacramental preparation of their loved one with disabilities, regardless of any challenges.”

Rodríguez explained the camp’s namesake, Msgr. Gerard Sabourin, pastor of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Exeter,has always been very active in helping individuals with disabilities receive the sacraments.

In the late 1960s, with the blessing of the bishop, Msgr. Sabourin created the Office of the Apostolate for the “Handicapped,” which is now called “Office of the Apostolate for People with Disabilities.” Msgr. Sabourin searched the United States, Canada and Europe in the late 60s and early 70s for catechetical curriculums to help catechize people with disabilities in the diocese. After a long search and after trying a few different models, he chose SPRED, a very successful international method which has been used in the Diocese of Providence since the 1980s.

“Msgr. Sabourin was instrumental in the closing of the Ladd School in Rhode Island, in the creation and organization of the ARC. He also started the first Catholic group home in the state of Rhode Island where he has shared his daily life with people with disabilities. He continues to share his home with one of the original persons from that group home which opened almost 50 years ago,” said Rodríguez. “He always dreamed of having a summer camp for people with disabilities and of having many fun summer events like other children and adults enjoy.”

The cost of the camp is $30 per person. The Office of the Apostolate for People with Disabilities has also received a grant from the John E. Moran-Ventre Foundation for a limited number of scholarships for families in need. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. The camp is bilingual and wheelchair accessible. Registration form available at dioceseofprovidence.org/apostolate-for-people-with-disabilities.