It’s hard to ignore the enthusiasm that radiates from Kathy Hagan, a retired school teacher working in Catholic religious education for 30 years. Hagan is involved in Confirmation preparation and special needs ministry at St. Luke Catholic Church in Irving, Texas. St. Luke’s is a vibrant community with parishioners from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Vietnam.
English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Filipino are spoken in the pews and classrooms. There is one more language—that of love—that Kathy helps develop with the aid of resources from Loyola Press. Oftentimes overlooked or forgotten are the students and families that live with various special needs. Kathy has a gift for working with those who have learning disabilities.
“It’s not easy to teach without proper training,” says Kathy. She’s seen a diverse range of disabilities and expressed her concern for how children with special needs receive valuable lessons about Jesus’ love and the sacraments. Hagan worked with her pastor and parish team to build a program for those who may need more attention with their lessons. “It can be financially and emotionally difficult for families here to find help for their children with special needs,” shared Kathy. She took initiative when she heard about the Adaptive Sacramental Preparation Kits.
Hagan was seeking a hands-on lesson plan that could also benefit others in the diocese, including those catechists and teachers who do not have the training with special needs that she does. “Kids from every part of the spectrum can learn with this. It gives teachers years worth of material,” Kathy remarked after reviewing the kits. Kathy and St. Luke’s were excited to pursue using the Adaptive Learning Kits in the parish.
After meeting with families, Hagan set up lesson times for each of the students. Some of the children could work alone and others could be in a classroom with groups. Most were preparing for First Eucharist and Confirmation.
This seasoned teacher’s earnest passion fuels her ministry. Hagan took the Adaptive Learning Kits and developed individual lessons for the various student needs. She works one-on-one with the children, sacrificing her personal time to accommodate parents’ schedules. “Parents come along and join the lessons, and I encourage them to reinforce the work we do together at home.”
The Adaptive Sacramental Preparation Kits are versatile and user-friendly, says Kathy. “Children ‘get it,’ and you can see it in their eyes and body language when they do. It may take extra time, but they really do get what they’re learning.”
Love poured out of each of Kathy’s stories about her students. After its autumn start, the program grew from a handful of students to ten by spring. Hagan knows this number will increase as more hear about the offering.
While the numbers grow in Texas, another community is benefitting from Kathy’s work. Twice a year Kathy travels with doctors and volunteers from the Medical Mission Network across the border to Mexico. They offer therapy and medical attention for poor villages and some jungle communities. Seeing the gifts that the Adaptive Learning Kits offered to families in her classroom back home, Kathy took along Mass cards and flip books from Loyola Press. In partnership with the Knights of Columbus, the Network brought along wheelchairs. The St. Luke’s special-needs program participants and their families provided vitamins and toothbrushes. The kits touched families on both sides of the border, showing their solidarity and care for one another.
Learn more about Loyola Press’s award-winning resources and programs for faith formation and sacramental preparation serving children with special needs in grades 1-8.