By Tim Johnson
FORT WAYNE — Helping everyone open the doors of their hearts and the Church is the mantra that Jane Sandor brings to her new role as a catechetical associate for the Office of Catechesis and Special Ministries. She will play a key role in the development of catechesis, retreats and accommodations for those with disabilities.
“I am delighted to have Jane with us in the Office of Catechesis, and I am excited about being able to help make the teachings of the Church accessible to more and more people,” said Deacon Jim Tighe, director of the Office of Catechesis.
Sandor has spent her professional career as a teacher at St. Vincent de Paul School in Fort Wayne for 11 years, principal of St. Aloysius School, Yoder, for two years, and principal of St. John the Baptist School, Fort Wayne, for five years.
“When I think of disabilities I firmly believe I’m the one who is disabled because I don’t understand the world through those who may be disabled in a variety of ways,” Sandor told Today’s Catholic. “So it’s a learning experience for me, and it’s a way for me to better understand what I’m being called to do.”
Mary Glowaski, Secretariat for Evangelization and Special Ministries, said, Sandor brings “compassion and appreciation that the gifts someone has — that’s the first thing that Jane sees. It’s not the struggles that they have. She has an innate ability to assess and figure out how to help someone capitalize on those gifts. She’s a teacher. She sees the gift first and foremost.”
Working with students’ disabilities was an “interesting transformation in my career,” Sandor said. When she first started teaching, she had little understanding of special needs children. “But as I journeyed through my education, I realized that every child has a right to learn — they’re just going to learn in a different way. And it was my job as a teacher to find that way that that child could learn,” Sandor said.
“Her educational background is invaluable, whether it is working with high school theology departments, or directors of religious education and catechists on the parish level,” Glowaski said.
“It’s a unique opportunity for us to bridge both the catechetical and the pastoral ministry when we serve the disabled and their families,” Glowaski noted.
Glowaski said that Sandor would be dedicated in helping the diocese find those who are disabled and look into resources available to them.
Sandor hopes to work with the faith formation-religious education programs in the parishes and help them understand the needs of children or adults with disabilities. She plans to bridge the materials within the resource rooms of the schools and the religious education programs.
“That is the gift of having Jane as an educator,” Glowaski said. “She brings a credibility and knowledge that is unquestioned. She understands from a teacher’s perspective their struggles — she gets it.”
Sandor said she wants to help parishes see what they already have and perhaps work it in a better way.
“I firmly believe every parish and every school has so much more than what they realize they have,” Sandor said. “And we just need to help them find it.”
This model is called the appreciative inquiry model. “We know that a great deal is being done and right,” Glowaski said. “So how can we build on that and extend that a little bit further? And it may be a challenge. It may be a stretch. But it’s already there.”
“A good percentage of what we can do is well within the realm of saving a parking space or having a special meal or making sure that we have an interpreter,” Glowaski said.
These simple accommodations can make a great difference. For example, Sandor said for the Catechetical Institute Day hosted by the Office of Catechesis on Oct. 27, one participant noted they had difficulty walking. Sandor arranged a parking space close to the building for the participant. “I called her yesterday and she was just totally overwhelmed that somebody from the diocese would call and be concerned about that and be willing to help her with that,” Sandor said.
On Nov. 10, Sandor is attending the Deaf Festival at the Allen County Fairgrounds to work on getting a message from the diocese out to all people, that “we have a disabilities ministry and it is our goal to embrace people to help them and help ourselves walk this journey together,” she said.
The diocesan-sponsored day of reflection for the deaf will be held Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Blessed John Paul II Center in Mishawaka from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Father Mike Depcik, one of 10 priests in the world who is deaf and celebrates Mass through sign language, will direct the retreat. Father Depcik will be available for confessions and celebration of the Mass. The cost for the retreat is $20 and includes lunch. To register, contact Sandor at [email protected].
Glowaski wished to express that the ministry is in the learning stages; they have missed some things, “but have found those who are disabled to be incredibly gracious.”
“I think that they are glad that they finally have a voice,” Sandor added.
“They matter to us,” Glowaski noted.
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