S.P.R.E.D. – Special Religious Development.
We were born into the community of a family and extended family. We depended on this community for the fulfilment of all our needs, physical, emotional, social, moral, economic, and religious. Our community of family went a long way towards making us who we are. When we grow up we can move away from home, get a job, set up a home; in other words become independent. Our friends with learning difficulties do not have these options in the same way. They really do need a community that will allow them to be individuals who have dignity, choice,and a sense of giving as well as receiving, a sense of being part of a community. They need friends outside their families and work places. The first community we experience outside the family is that of the Christian community when we are brought to church to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
Each Baptised person is welcomed into the community of the parish and is given the opportunity to develop his/her faith, initially by receiving the sacraments and then by ongoing attendance at the Eucharist and other liturgical events. Our aim in Spred is to integrate our friends into the liturgical life of the parish. Our faith is our greatest gift from God. Our friends have as much right as we have to grow in their faith. We, in Spred, can give them a chance to experience the spiritual in life, also a chance to grow in the faith that they received in seed at baptism. Faith education is only possible if our friends feel they are loved. We are opening a door that allows our friends to appreciate who God is for them. Often it is our friends who opens the door for us. It is by giving to those who have learning difficulties that we not only receive but also enable them to give. Then, their joy, simplicity, and honesty, for example, may be seen and experienced by others. Others are consequently modified by being with them. With them we can be weak and receive of their strengths, of their love for us, of their trust, of their approval, if we give them time and space to be with us.
Spred is all about friendship. We are referred to as volunteers while we ourselves are known as faith companions because that is our role- to be a companion in faith to our faith friends. We all need friends outside of our family. We all need community. It takes time to build up this bond of friendship. We realise to be a faith companion we need to accept one another as we are, to be loving, sincere, honest, genuine, compassionate, kind and authentic. Our friends can easily discern if we are lacking in these attributes. We respect one another and this can be seen in the way we relate to one another. We are sharing our faith. We are faithful companions on a journey with our friends. The depth of our bonding as a small faith community is a symbol of the depth of God’s love for us. Through Spred our friends can experience the Church as a group of believers who come together to share life.