The following is a letter from Bishop John Keenan that will be given out to all parishes in the Diocese of Paisley this weekend.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am writing to tell you about a beautiful treasure in our diocese which you may not even know about. It is our ministry for our brothers and sisters with special needs to make sure they can enjoy their own SPecial REligious Development.
Bishop John Mone set up our diocesan SPRED ministry as something close to his heart and, twenty five years on, we are celebrating its Silver Jubilee.
Every week twenty-one SPRED groups meet around our diocese from our SPRED centre in St Peter’s, Glenburn to parish halls around the diocese and even reaching out to our special needs schools. All in all, two hundred of our fellow parishioners of differing ages with special needs and abilities come together in faith and friendship to share God’s love.
As a priest and bishop I have often celebrated Mass for our SPRED groups and the sense of love and joy, of friendship and hope have always given me the deepest sense of Jesus’ real presence among us. I am very proud we are carrying on Bishop Mone’s dream to have this ministry at the heart of our diocesan life.
Pope Francis said recently:
“Disabled people must not be hidden away and that, even if “each of us has a different ways of understanding things. … we can all know God”.
SPRED groups use special methods to give their members and friends their own experience of God’s Word and Sacraments and because of SPRED our brothers and sisters with learning disabilities belong to our Church with a dignity that celebrates the giftedness of each of them.
One mum whose daughter has been with SPRED for twenty years said,
”How can I thank SPRED enough for being so dedicated to helping my daughter, for giving her time to love and be loved? You taught her to laugh, which is the music of the soul. You took time to listen to her and be her friends and opened a whole new world to her. You took time to pray with her and gave her with the key to heaven. Only God can reward you properly”.
I could not give you better insight into our diocesan SPRED than this grateful parent.
We want this jewel in our diocesan crown to continue but we now need your financial support to put it on a strong footing for the generation ahead. SPRED is our biggest diocesan ministry but it costs £56,000 annually, or around £3.00 for every Mass going Catholic in our diocese.
In the New Year we will be launching a diocesan fundraising appeal so we can get rid of our diocesan deficit which, at £300,000 annually, would see us run out of money within the decade if not addressed. But before we tackle that I want to look after SPRED. Although it accounts for twenty percent of our annual deficit, it is the heart and soul of what we are about and I want to put it first.
Please give generously to what will, from now on, be our annual Second Collection for SPRED. Take away your Advent SPRED boxes and bring them back full of the charity of Jesus for His little ones and the joy of the Gospel for our diocese.
With all my prayers and blessings