When St. Matthew parishioners Charlie and Pat Cooper were looking for a Catholic, faith-based organization for their special needs adult daughter Susan to join, they couldn’t find any.
There were many non-denominational groups that were geared towards adults with special needs in the Nashville area, but none that were specifically Catholic.
So, they turned to their friends around the diocese for help in starting a group of their own.
On Sunday, Feb. 23, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, Open Arms Ministry will host its inaugural kickoff event. All adults with special needs throughout the diocese and their families are welcome.
“My friend and fellow St. Henry parishioner Dolly Millican is the one who first told me about it,” said Joshua Jackson, spokesperson for Open Arms. “She mentioned there were interest meetings happening for a new organization in the diocese that provided outreach to adults with special needs. Soon afterwards, I noticed there were a lot of cars showing up at Charlie and Pat Cooper’s house, since they’re my neighbors. As it turns out, they were the ones hosting these meetings for Open Arms.
“I ended up joining in to help out because programming like this is needed so much in our diocese,” Jackson said.
Open Arms is open to all people in the diocese with special needs ages 18 and older and seeks to provide them with opportunities to share faith and fellowship and serve their local Catholic community.
“All of us as Catholics are called to serve the Church’s mission to proclaim the Gospel message, no matter what our walk of life is,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re elderly, whether you’re young, whether you have disabilities or special needs, or what have you. But all of us need a supportive environment where we can best serve that mission and are given opportunities to do so.
“Open Arms aims to provide those opportunities to people who otherwise might not have access to them,” he said. “We want this group to be an avenue for adult Catholics with special needs to pray together, to make friends, and to give back to their local community.”
So far, Jackson and other people in charge of Open Arms have been advertising the group through word of mouth and getting the word out to their parish communities.
“Our main channels of communication so far have been at the parish level,” he said. “We’ve been submitting our information to our church bulletins and asking pastors around the diocese to make announcements about it at Mass. And we’ve been talking to people we know who might be interested.”
Jackson is very excited to officially get the group up and running at the kickoff in February.
“The kickoff will be a lot of fun, with plenty of time for mixing and mingling and icebreaker activities to get to know everyone. And we’ll also start looking into opportunities for members to get involved in community service around the diocese. We’re all looking forward to it very much,” he said.
He strongly encourages all who are interested to get involved. “If you’re a Catholic adult with special needs who is looking for an opportunity to grow spiritually, serve your local Catholic community, make friends, and have a lot of fun while doing it, then please join us,” he said. “We’re really happy to have you.”
Those who want to learn more about getting involved in Open Arms can call Jackson at 831-902-9251 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Ω