STORIES

Essay Contest: Blog #3 Colleen Stefanowich

I have known Colleen and her parents through Young Life Capernaum and then The Chosen Ministry for many years and have always appreciated her quick smile and willingness to help.  Colleen is a friend to many, including myself and  my daughter Samantha who has autism.  Whenever we visit Church of the Holy Family‘s Chosen Ministry events and run into Colleen, I can be guaranteed a huge hug and that she will go out of her way to say hello to Samantha, understanding that Samantha cannot respond in kind but accepting and so loving all the same.  
It doesn’t surprise me then, that Colleen is so involved at her church and that she has an incredibly positive attitude. Thank you Colleen for submitting this essay and allowing us learn a bit about you. -K. Jackson
MY INVISIBLE DISABILITY
BY COLLEEN STEFONOWICH
“That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, …

Essay Contest Blog Series-Blog #2-Jenny the Jewel

I have known this next author for many years through the social ministry first called Young Life Capernaum and then The Chosen Ministry. I have always been a bit in awe of her confident faith and am so grateful to call her friend.  Thank you “Jenny the Jewel” for your strong words of faith and for being such a kind and loving friend. -K. Jackson
 
What My Faith Means to Me
My faith means EVERYTHING to me! When I was in high school, the kids on the school bus were very mean to me and and called me all kinds of bad names. They told me I was a mistake! When I got home I would be crying. My Mom met me at the door every day and we would talk and pray. She told me that people called Jesus bad names too and that He understand exactly how I felt. She …

Essay Contest Blog Series-Blog #1

In preparing for this year’s Gifts of the Heart Gala, I was looking for an opportunity to highlight the voices of those who identify as having a disability. After all, our organization is about inclusion and the most important voice for disability inclusion efforts is (or should be) those who have disabilities themselves. Thus, in addition to our keynote speaker, Lisa Olson, who spoke eloquently about acceptance at the gala, the first Gifts of the Heart Essay Contest was born. 
I really had no idea whether or not anyone would submit an essay but we had a few things going for us. Number one, our good friend and sponsor, John Koehler of Koehler Publishing  offered up the $100 winning prize. Two, I had a vision that our winner and many of the participants would be recognized at our gala on March 11.  
In the end, we had six people enter the contest …

The Parking Lot

I was excited when Virginia Pilot journalist Denise Watson replied to my email about doing a story on Faith Inclusion Network and our upcoming Gifts of the Heart Gala.  I always love to share about FIN and the work we do. After Denise and I talked on the phone, we decided to meet up at my church, Blessed Sacrament Catholic in Norfolk, VA one weekend before Mass to have a picture taken of my daughter Samantha participating at church, a shining example of inclusion as a person severely affected by autism but very much part of our church family.
I knew our Pastor, Fr. Joe Metzger would be fine with the plan, he has always been supportive of our efforts to include Samantha and the various cameras and reporters in the past coming in to film or take photos.  I should have known it would not be that easy this time …

My New Ramp

For the last ten years I have been a public advocate in the disability community, learning about inclusion and sharing that information with faith communities, hopefully raising awareness about the need to be more welcoming to individuals and families affected by disability. During the course of this work, I have made many friends, some of them very close friends now, who use wheelchairs.  For the last few years, I have made sure that I borrowed or rented a ramp in December so that I could invite my friends who use wheelchairs to a Christmas open-house party in my home.
A few weeks ago, faced with preparations for this year’s open house, I made a decision.  I just went ahead and purchased a ramp. It is not a huge one, as you can see in the photo, but it serves its purpose. I was so excited about my new ramp, that I …

Happy Birthday to the Happy Hour Class

Today I had the privilege of attending worship service at Wesley Grace United Methodist Church, http://www.wmumcnor.org/ a small congregation in the Wards Corner area of Norfolk, VA that is known locally for a lot of community outreach, impacting the local area in many positive ways.
I was invited by my friend, Gray Puryear, who is not only a longstanding member of the congregation but also serves as a lay speaker among the many responsibilities he holds at Wesley Grace.
Gray, who I have known for 10 years as he is a founding board member of Faith Inclusion Network, invited me to this service because they were planning to celebrate an exciting milestone, the 50th anniversary of a ministry for adults with intellectual disabilities they call “Happy Hour Class”.
An excerpt from a description in the bulletin about the ministry reads, “In 1967, several parents attending a church t Wards Corner in Norfolk asked the …