The diocese seeks feedback from parishioners supporting the elderly and children with disabilities
SEWELL — At Holy Family Parish here on March 15, representatives of the Camden Diocese listened to the hopes and concerns of those supporting the elderly, and children and adults with disabilities, with the goal of better serving these individuals and their loved ones in their homes and parishes.
“Where are the gaps” in what the diocese provides, asked Deacon Gerard J. Jablonowski, director of Home and Parish-based Healthcare Services for the diocese.
Last Sunday’s event was the first in a planned series of listening sessions for the Offices of Home and Parish-based Healthcare Services, and Ministry with the Deaf/Persons with Disabilities, as the two departments map out the future of healthcare services in the Diocese of Camden.
“Our goal (for the listening session) is to find out where some gaps in care might be, what people’s certain needs are, and transform our diocesan health services,” he said.
Sister Bonnie McMenamin, director of Ministry With the Deaf/Persons With Disabilities, added that she and Deacon Jablonowski wanted to “listen to people’s desires, hopes, and dreams, so we can help create programs that will support them and help their needs.”
Jen Naddeo, a mother with 11-year-old twins on the autism spectrum, believes that “the diocese can do so much for kids and the elderly.”
She expressed concern with her parish community’s reaction to her children, and stressed the need for further education to help others understand her sons’ needs.
Naddeo also expressed appreciation for the listening session, saying it could only help get the word out that the diocese wants to help families.
Full statistics on the number of families caring for elderly individuals, and children with disabilities, are hard to come by, as some families tend to stay shut-in and care for their loved ones by themselves, feeling that no one knows what they are going through, Sister Bonnie said.
Victoria and Jerry Butler, from St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield, help their community by participating in Compassionate Outreach, and Stephen Ministry, which provides emotional and spiritual support for those going through difficult times.
“There are many avenues we need to pursue and a long way to go, but I think there could be some good outcomes after this,” said Victoria. “It was a good opportunity to learn more, and take it back to our parish.”
Other issues that were raised dealt with helping aging parents with their disabled children; helping families understand government healthcare services, and treating their unmet needs; and catering to the elderly.
In that last instance, the two diocesan leaders praised the work of St. Peter Church, Merchantville, whose Senior Ministry provides programs five days a week, four hours a day, for seniors that includes companionship, spirituality, physical activity and nutritious meals.