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| August 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

Mass celebrates gifts people with disabilities bring to archdiocese

Debi Moffatt helps her daughter Jennifer prepare for confirmation class. Jennifer and her brothers Patrick and Daniel will be confirmed Sept. 8 at the annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Debi Moffatt helps her daughter Jennifer prepare for confirmation class. Jennifer and her brothers Patrick and Daniel will be confirmed Sept. 8 at the annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Debi and Dan Moffatt were wondering earlier this summer if their 16-year-old special-needs triplets would have the opportunity to be confirmed.

They were trying to decide if they should enroll them in confirmation classes at their parish, St. Patrick in Edina, when Debi received an email from her sister, who has a daughter with autism, asking her what the family was planning to do for confirmations.

Debi said she knew about the annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities that is celebrated at the St. Paul Seminary chapel, and she told her sister she would do some digging to see what might be offered for her niece and for her own teens.

Debi did her research and found out about the confirmation program offered through the Outreach to Persons with Disabilities office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The program started in just two days, and the Moffatts might have missed the opportunity had it not been for the email from Debi’s sister.

Enter Deacon Sean Curtan, who runs the disabilities office as part of the Office of Marriage, Family and Life with the help of his wife Joan.

“I emailed right away, and Deacon Sean called me back within a half hour,” Debi said.

“Everything just fell into place so smoothly,” she said.

The Moffatts’ triplets — Patrick, Daniel and Jennifer — have varying degrees of cerebral palsy. Daniel, whose condition is very mild, could have taken classes at the parish but opted for this program so he could be confirmed with his brother and sister.

The Curtans facilitate the classes — two Saturday mornings for two hours.

“Deacon Sean really emphasized, like we believe in this house, that everyone has something to give,” Debi said. “Sometimes even if it’s just a smile or a hello, that can really brighten other people’s lives.”

“He really stressed that all of the candidates are members of the body of Christ and they have a right to be able to go to church and be part of that community,” she said.

The Curtans believe that everyone belongs and has something to contribute. When parents call their office and ask if it is possible for their child to receive the sacraments, “it’s not a matter of can, it’s how are we going to do it,” Deacon Curtan said.

Want to go?

What: Annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities.
When: Sept. 8, 3 p.m.
Where: St. Paul Seminary, St. Mary’s Chapel, 2260 Summit Ave. St. Paul.

This year’s celebrant will be Bishop Lee Piché. A sing-along will begin at 2:30 p.m. and a social with light refreshments will follow the Mass.

The ministry

Deacon Curtan has been running the archdiocesan Outreach to Persons with Disabilities since 2008, but the couple’s experience with people with disabilities goes back much farther.

Their first experience came when Joan was chair of the social action group at their parish, Assumption in Richfield. She helped get approval from the city for a group home to be built in their neighborhood.

“I had never been exposed to anyone with disabilities but felt that everybody should have the same opportunities,” Joan said. “It was a real eye-opener for me.”

Deacon Curtan has a background in teaching, but got involved in working with people with disabilities when the group home was built and they served on the board of directors.

Then, he took a job at Opportunity Partners, an organization that supports choices for people with disabilities through innovative services and strategic collaborations.

“I decided one day that I really wanted to serve this population, so I went to work at Opportunity Partners and was there 22 years,” he said. “It was a true calling in ministry, and I just truly loved it.”

The archdiocesan ministry is a perfect fit for them. “It’s a true gift to be able to see it and feel it when you meet parents and people with disabilities, and it’s a true calling,” Deacon Curtan said.

“The fantastic gift of working with the archdiocese is working with the DREs and the pastors and the associate pastors and Archbishop [John] Nienstedt and Bishop [Lee] Piché. There’s not a person in the entire Church that doesn’t want this inclusion for people,” he said.

Before he was ordained, Deacon Curtan and Joan attended the Mass for Persons with Disabilities at the seminary. “I said, ‘This is for me,’ and little did I know then that it really would be for me,” he said.

The Curtans see this Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop Piché, as a great gift to the archdiocese, and Debi Moffatt agrees.

“It’s huge, it even means more than if they were making [confirmation] through our parish, because I think that as parents you really understand and sympathize with the road that each of you are on,” she said. “To celebrate that with other people who get that is just amazing. It’s powerful.”

The Mass is hosted by the seminarians of the St. Paul Seminary, and the Franciscan Brothers of Peace help with a sing-a-long beforehand.

“Sometimes when the Holy Spirit fills the rest of us, we kind of tone it down a bit,” Debi said. “But if Jenny’s excited about something, she’ll just let it out, you really know how she’s feeling. To be there and experience that . . . we’re really looking forward to it.”

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