Jean Ko Din from the Youth Speak News section of the recent January edition of the Catholic Register, shares about his experience at a recent St. Jude’s youth retreat.
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“At first, it was awkward. The Grade 10 students from St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School weren’t really sure of what to do, so they stuck to the perimeters of the room. The St. Jude’s special needs clients, however, weren’t as shy. They swayed their hips and pumped their fists to music that praised God.
St. Jude’s Academy of the Arts is a day program offered to intellectually challenged adults. This charity program is celebrating 15 years of service to adults and 10 years of youth ministry.
December 8, 2012 was a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon but a community of about 80 people gathered together to celebrate this important milestone. Fr. Basil Cembalista, who was celebrating 42 years of priesthood, said mass in the music room of the academy, which was then followed with adoration and a rosary.
St. Jude’s holds day retreats for an average of 300 students per week. After a decade of ministry, they have reached out to more than 100,000 students from across the GTA.
Students learn about social justice, especially those that affect people with disabilities. In spending time with the clients, they are able to see how “joyful and full of love” the clients are.
Together they make rosary bracelets for their arts and crafts session — which are then sold to schools to fundraise for the program. They also participate in a dance class with the clients and a theatre improv session.
At the end of the day, the clients and students come together in the music room for a praise and worship concert led by the St. Jude’s staff. “I think it’s a good time to bring our Catholic faith to our kids,” says Angela Carboni, founder and executive director of the program. “Blindness of the soul is the worst thing you could have. Kids need to see that there is more to this world.”
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