Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Marlene Quaroni - Florida Catholic
Photography: MARLENE QUARONI | FC
MIAMI BEACH | Marian Center residents sat in the first row of St. Patrick Church. They prayed, offered each other the sign of peace, stepped forward to receive Communion, and some performed as part of the center's hand bell choir. Best Buddies ambassadors addressed the congregation, acted as altar servers and lectors, and two of them performed solos.
“Today, we celebrate the gift of life,” said Father Roberto Cid, St. Patrick’s pastor, in his homily at the fifth annual White Mass for people with disabilities. “We are called to participate in the love of God, which is manifested in the giving and receiving of human love.”
The Marian Center in Miami Gardens, founded in 1963, offers education, work training and other services to people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Best Buddies, founded in 1987, is the largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of about 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Anthony Kennedy Shriver, founder, chairman and CEO of Best Buddies, said that he wishes there was no need for his organization, which is based in Miami and has 2,300 chapters worldwide.
“My vision is that this program doesn’t have to exist,” said the Miami Beach resident after the Mass Nov. 18. “I’d like to see Best Buddies go out of business. We envision a world where people with [disabilities] are successfully integrated into schools, workplaces and communities. We wish that its current efforts and service will be unnecessary. We shouldn’t need Best Buddies to facilitate training for people with disabilities. We shouldn’t have to open the doors for them.”
Shriver was inspired to start a White Mass in Miami after his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started a White Mass in Washington, D.C. The White Mass is named for the color worn by medical workers and others in the medical profession, and is celebrated on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
The night before the Mass, Best Buddies’ annual fund-raising gala took place. The gala and a 64-mile bicycle ride starting in downtown Miami raised about $3 million for the organization, said David Guilleon, senior vice president for Global Mission, State Development and Operations.
Best Buddy ambassador Jack Mayor welcomed those at the Mass and gave a reason for the celebration.
“We are gathered together to give thanks for the gift of lives of people with special needs,” said the 17-year-old, who traveled from Chicago to attend the gala and Mass. “Each of us, along with the archbishop of Miami and Best Buddies family, play an important role in the disability rights movement. By joining together and taking action, we will be able to make a change. Thank you.”