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Adults with Autism Ministry Receives God’s Graces

March 19, 2019

By Anne Bradley Leopold, a Woman of Malvern

Kevin would not come out of the bathroom. I sat down on the floor beside the door and wept. I guess the Lord heard me for He filled me with a new idea. The idea was to create something better, a place where Kevin could grow and have a better life. I had been fighting the bureaucratic healthcare system, the “walking-dead” shift workers who didn’t care, a family that was disintegrating under the barrage of Kevin’s destructive behaviors, and my own weariness and frustration. The better idea was Emmaus Home.

I was beginning a new life alone, without money, experience, and no connections. All I had to lean on was Jesus and Mary, and a vision that was fueled by the writings of Jean Vanier, of creating a safe and loving home for Kevin and other Adults with Autism.

The Lord first inspired me to explore the listings for merged parishes with available convents and schools. That journey led me from Montgomery County down to St. Joseph’s in Collingdale. After much work and great expense, that door closed on us when the zoning committee refused our application. However, a call from Father Anthony Orth in St Gabriel’s parish in Norwood was a direct fruit of that journey. He was exceptionally welcoming and supportive. The parish of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, in Essington was available. At once, everything fell into place.  We had use of the Rectory, the school, the convent, and best of all, the Church with Our Lord present in the tabernacle.  Accommodations were made for me to sleep in the former chapel of the Convent. 

It has been four years since I wept on the floor and that vision has become a growing reality, filled with blessings and miracles. We were launched into the community after two years. Initially we had to meet in outdoor parks, libraries; anywhere we could meet to begin our day for free. Then we found a wonderful, beautiful space in Aston, PA. The landlord must have been heaven- sent as, for he customized and beautified the facility. It was amazing. There we launched our new Day Program, where we spend over half of the day teaching our adult participants daily living skills, music, art, and computer. The rest of the day we are out and about in the community.

Meanwhile we had started two new group homes. One in Swarthmore, in Delaware County, near Our Lady of Notre Dame parish and another in Abington, in Montgomery County. We have three residents presently living there.

 I always worried that my Kevin and our other adults might not have as rich and full a life as they deserved. Once a week we go shopping for ingredients and return to the Day Program where our participants learn how to prepare and cook their lunch. It is always varied and delicious.

Every week we all pack into our 15-passenger van to play Bingo. Local Swim Clubs and YMCAs have also been some of our favorite haunts all summer long. Kevin loves these outings; Spenser and Brian enjoy the snack bar. We make regular trips to Farmers Markets. They are absolutely wonderful and all our guys simply love going up and down the aisles. They are jam- packed with everything they love. And of course, the week is peppered with trips to convenience stores, the grocery store for shopping, trips to State Parks, Bowling, outdoor concerts and outings to the Library.

Our guys are experiencing a rich life. And while Kevin still swipes some light bulbs and breaks dishes, he has learned to enjoy living with others and being a part of a safe and loving family called Emmaus Home.  I write this with a heartfelt appreciation of Our Lord’s graces and mercy; of course, the loving embrace of the Blessed Mother.

 

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