Personal Story

Impact Feature Issue on Faith Communities and Persons with Developmental Disabilities

Miriam and Her Family (sidebar)

Jesus Piceno is one of the Hispanic youth ministry leaders at Blessed Sacrament Church in Westminister, California. His wife, Imelda, is a lector, reading from Scripture at Sunday Mass. Their daughter, Miriam, has Down syndrome and participates with her parents in church programs for the extended family. The couple is active in helping parents, especially recent immigrants, to access community services for children with special needs. “What a difference it makes to have a sense of belonging to a community of faith,” says Jesus. “At church Miriam is part of the community. She doesn’t appear different from the other children and is referred to as ‘Miriam,’ not ’the child with Down syndrome,’” according to Imelda. Imelda also notes that the most important thing the church has done to help Miriam’s spiritual development is to offer this acceptance. “She has been part of this church since she was two, has learned about her faith here, and knows a number of the prayers and hymns by heart.”

Through their involvement in the Jovenes Para Cristo (Youth for Christ) ministry, Jesus, Imelda, and Miriam have paved the way for the participation of other families who have children with disabilities. They are now looking forward to the day when Miriam receives First Holy Communion.

Contributed by Jesus and Imelda Piceno, Blessed Sacrament Church, Westminster, and by Mary Brosseau, Director for Special Religious Education, Diocese of Orange.