Volunteers Prepare Disabled Children for Sacraments

August 22, 2020

Mother and daughter at First Communion

 By Kelly Mescher Collins

 It was providential that a ministry for children with disabilities would be offered at Corpus Christi Parish in Council Bluffs, said friends and parishioners Lisa Millbrath and Donna Conn.

Per usual, they were both at Mass one typical Saturday evening. Both families always arrived 30 minutes early for prayer, reflection and conversation.

Millbrath turned around and asked Conn: “Do you know if anything’s been done for special needs kids?”

Coincidentally, Conn had just ordered materials on sacramental preparation for special needs children to learn more about the ministry. She had felt promptings from the Holy Spirit to do more. Millbrath had experienced those same promptings.

“The Lord has laid it on my heart that something needs to be done for these kids,’” Millbrath said, noting her compassion for this group, as her own daughter has autism.

That conversation and God’s tugging on each of their hearts got the ball rolling.

“These kids are children of God and they understand more than what we think they do,” Conn said. “And they deserve it.”           

Their ministry began small and simple with first reconciliation and first communion preparation – but it is an extremely positive first step.  They made the announcement to the parish last year and three children came forward with their families.

“It was very positive because [my daughter Abigail] found out she wasn’t the only one dealing with issues, and so she really took to the class,” said mother Jayne Zitek. “She had a really fun time with the other kids there.”

The volunteers were very patient with the children – a positive affirmation for both the children and parents.

“The parents were so excited about their child being able to receive communion and reconciliation,” Conn said.

Father Tom Thakadipuram, the pastor, said he was happy Conn, Millbrath and other volunteers came forward.

“It was a great joy to do confession for these children, as their innocence and readiness to turn their hearts to God with full heart and full engagement,” Father Thakadirpuram said. “Their spontaneous excitement and freedom to be loved and forgiven was very evident. The caring ministers and parents made all the difference.”