Ministry to the mentally challenged creates bonds, shares love

Caesar

Photo by James Kuepper
Junior Luke Findley (left), member of the Ministry to the Mentally Challenged, speaks with Caesar, whom he sees every week.

BY JOHN GALLAGHER
STAFF WRITER

“You know you’re my family, right?”

Caesar, one of the Franklin House residents who is on the receiving end of Franciscan University’s Ministry to the Mentally Challenged, never ceases to remind those student participants that their work is truly important.

An hour of the week often represents the pinnacle of positive human interaction, both for Caesar, and for all who reside in the home for mentally challenged individuals.

After 10:30 a.m. Mass on Saturdays, the ministry travels down to the Franklin House, located just a few minutes from Franciscan’s campus. The students visit with the mentally challenged for just over an hour.

The focus of the ministry is the promotion of personal communication between student and resident, even if that discussion should turn into one regarding Catholic doctrine, a topic that ministry member Jenny Seng said “most of them are open to talking about.”

Seng, a weekly participant in the ministry, enjoys the common bond that both students and Franklin House residents share.

“Even though they are not all practicing Catholics, love is at the heart of it,” said Seng. “They might not all understand Christ, but they understand what it means to love and to pray for one another.”

Ministry to the Mentally Challenged

Photo by James Kuepper
Franciscan University students of the Ministry to the Mentally Challenged on their weekly visit.

Even to a casual observer, that bond is more than enough to promote the formation of personal relationships with those who are mentally challenged. From 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. each Saturday, the living room of the Franklin House is filled with smiles, conversation, even laughter, the effects of which brighten the days of all involved.

The ministry’s impact is made evident in so many ways, says Laura Boak, co-leader of the ministry.

“It’s really cool to see how they continue to love us,” said Boak. “People can mistreat them sometimes on the streets, so it’s amazing to see how they’re so open to giving and receiving love. Some of them have lost touch with everyone else.”

Before ending the time together, a ministry leader will always call everyone in the room into a circle, asking one of the mentally challenged residents to conclude the visit in prayer.

If a ministry is defined by the work it completes, the outreach to the mentally challenged is a ministry in more ways than one.

“It’s not just giving,” says Seng. “You receive so much from the ministry. They help our lives as much as we help them.”

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Photo by James Kuepper Junior Katie Metzger, member of the Ministry to the Mentally Challenged, shares a smile with Mike.

As much as the students strengthen their relationships with members of the Franklin House during their visits, for the residents, the visits mean so much more, as warranted by Caesar’s words upon the students’ exit. It is a question that, upon the conclusion of each visit, everyone can come to expect.

“You know you’re my family, right?”

And it is a question always answered with one last hug goodbye.

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