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Letting the blind 'feel' Lent

English Spanish Dolores Hanley McDiarmid Profile
Ben Alvarado, a parishioner of St. Bernard Church in Sunrise as he experiences the Stations of the Cross through the sense of touch.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Ben Alvarado, a parishioner of St. Bernard Church in Sunrise as he experiences the Stations of the Cross through the sense of touch.

It’s the Lenten Season and we as Catholics have several beautiful devotional traditions in which we are invited to participate and share within our faith communities. How are we making an effort to include other people living with a disability?

This year, parishioners at St. Bernard Parish in Sunrise participated in the Stations of the Cross as they always do. However, thanks to the pastor, Father Carlos Vega, parishioner Patti Goudreau and myself, there was an effort to make the event more meaningful and inclusive for Catholics who are blind.

An hour before parishioners began the Stations of the Cross with Father Vega, I met inside the church with four people living with blindness from different parishes in Broward County. The small group walked from one station to the next, feeling each piece of art representing the Stations of the Cross.

This tactile experience enabled the group to have a more meaningful experience as they followed along with the sighted participants of St. Bernard Parish. With me leading the group during the Stations of the Cross, each of the people living with blindness also had the opportunity to carry the cross from one station to another for the first time in their life.

The opportunity to carry the cross during the walking of the stations enabled each person to feel like they were fully participating with everyone else; not just being a passive observer. They felt included and spiritually fulfilled.

Goudreau said she was impressed by the group’s openness and willingness to accept the cross and walk from one station to the next.

Everyone participating in this first time effort to include the blind in Lenten devotions agreed that the experience was excellent and that future opportunities to participate in this devotion will have more meaning as a result of feeling an artistic representation of each station.

Nimia Iturraspe  from St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Weston, experiences the “Talking Rosary” for the first time.

Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO

Nimia Iturraspe from St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Weston, experiences the “Talking Rosary” for the first time.

On March 1, Lighthouse of Broward in Fort Lauderdale offered a demonstration on the use of the “Talking Rosary” by Freedom, as advertised in the Florida Catholic.

Those participating included: three people living with blindness who are clients of the Lighthouse of Broward, plus Tracey Bartholomew and Nina Bertke from St. Anthony Parish, and Phillip Tran, a student at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Boynton Beach.

The group agreed that the “Talking Rosary” also would help sighted people pray the rosary if they were unfamiliar with the Creed and the Hail Mary, and did not have access to the printed material most people use when participating in this devotion.

Most exciting to the group was the fact that, with proper instruction, this “Talking Rosary” would enable a person who is blind or someone unable to read the printed word to lead a group of people in praying the rosary. Following the demonstration, two of the three people who are blind expressed an interest in purchasing the innovative rosary.
Dolores Hanley McDiarmid
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Comments from readers

Dorysped Mancebo - 03/22/2013 03:59 PM
It is a wonderful experience how Dolores creates ways to inspire us to increase our spiritual life to deal with a better attitude our blindness.
Dolores Hanley McDiarmid - 03/22/2013 01:08 PM
Today I celebrate with a joy that is impossible to contain! On Monday, March 18, 2013 the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, demonstrated to the entire world that it is easy to welcome, include and interact with someone who is blind and that even dog guides deserve the same treatment of being welcomed and respected. I can only imagine the excitement of Alessandro Forlani as he was greeted by our new Holy Father, who with a smile gave the Papal Blessing to his dog guide Asia, too.
Yes, Pope Francis certainly has a great mind and a big heart. He took the initiative to reach out, acknowledge the man and his dog guide in the audience and welcomed both of them! How will you respond the next time you see someone who is blind in church or in the community?
Here are two links to this story: http://dogtime.com/new-pope-blesses-guide-dog.html
http://mothernaturenetwork.tumblr.com/post/45854949299/pope-blesses-reporters-guide-dog-visually?og=1
Michael McCormack - 03/20/2013 05:04 AM
Dolores continues to be an inspiration to a sector of our church that so often we neglect. Thank you for reminding us to be more aware of aiding those with challenges so that they too can become more fully members of our worshipping communities.
Sister Lidia Valli - 03/19/2013 02:38 PM
Thank you for including people with diverse challenges. It is always inspiring to see how many creative ways there are to welcome anyone in our faith practices.

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