We want to share the story of the development of Spred ministry with you. You may discover that you are being called to participate in this ministry with us in some way. Meet the Spred Team!
In 1960, when Father James McCarthy became associate director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the Archdiocese of Chicago, he discovered that parents had been inquiring about a program that would help their children to become prepared to participate in the liturgical life of their parish. They wanted their children with developmental disabilities to be able to receive the sacraments. There was no such program.
Fr. McCarthy began to meet with parents, special educators and volunteers. While exploring the existence of catechetical materials with assistance from Sr. Mary Therese Harrington SH, the symbolic method of Fr. Jean Mesny, a priest from Lyon, France was discovered. Fr. Mesny was working in consert with Fr. Euchariste Paulhus from Quebec, Canada. Together, they came to Chicago to share the method called Vivre with what was becoming the Chicago Spred team. Sr. Mary Therese began to translate their work into English.
In 1966, Spred was established as an agency of the Archdiocese of Chicago. With this formal recognition it became possible to plan for the replication of Spred ministry in parishes. The goal being to make it possible for each parish to welcome persons with developmental disabilities into a Spred group where they would become prepared to participate in the liturgical life of their parish.
A Spred model center was developed so that people being formed as catechists could come to observe catechesis at the Spred training center.
The Spred staff made a decision to work together in the 11-16 age group.
As the number of Centers grew and the need arose for persons in one age group to move to the next age group, it became important to secure the same structure and use of materials for each center.
The Standards were created to support the development of a common mentality and spirit among centers.
Spred groups are base communities whose goal is integration into the larger community of worship.
Training courses were developed from experience with the method in view of the needs of parishes in the Archdiocese.
Fr. Paulhus Fr. Mesny
As the staff gained insight through experience, the Spred Newsletter was created as a way of documenting the establishment of Spred ministry and supporting the ever growing number of Spred catechist communities of faith. The Spred Newsletter has been published nine times a year since 1968.
Coordination of Parish Centers within each area is important. In the Spring of each year Parish Chairpersons gather with Spred Community Religious Workers to plan for growth and to share stories of the year so that all can sense the needs and the development that is occurring within their Deanery and Vicariate. The list of Spred Centers according to Vicariate and Deanery along with Centers in the surrounding dioceses shows the development of Centers at the present time.
The Spred staff supports the ministry of Spred directors, National, (in 19 dioceses in the United States) & International, (directors in 7 countries). Every three years there is a gathering of directors for sharing and enrichment as part of Project Peer Support. Sr. Mary Therese Harrington responds to inquiries from other dioceses.
Spred has been part of various departments in the Archdiocesan structure. Communication within the Department alerts other agency directors to the importance of parish involvement in Spred ministry. The Spred agency belongs to the Department of Parish Life and Formation with several other agencies.
In 1973 the Spred Agency moved to St. John Nepomucene parish. Father McCarthy became pastor of the parish while remaining the director of Spred. Since then, Spred Family Liturgies sensitive to the need for participation by people with special needs have been celebrated for families and Spred group members.
In 1990 the parish was closed by the Archdiocese along with several other parishes in the area. Spred, without parish funds relies on donations to secure the Spred Chapel and Resource Center.
The space of the former parish school, located on the third floor above the church was redesigned to meet the needs of Spred ministry. Each of the four age groups, 6-10, 11-16, 17-21 and 22+, have an environment respecting their chronological age.
In 1987 it became clear that if Spred ministry was going to be able to expand and welcome those who were not receiving any services, more personnel were needed to work with parishes, residences and group homes to develop Spred groups. It was then that Mamre, Inc. was established as a fundraising arm of Spred, thanks to the generosity of Margaret Reid, an avid supporter of Spred ministry.
On May 19, 2013, Fr. Jenkins CSC, President of the University of Notre Dame conferred on Fr. James McCarthy, Sr. Mary Therese Harrington SH and Sr. Susanne Gallagher SP Notre Dames highest honor, the Laetare Medal. Read more here.
On June 19, 2013, through Commissioner John Daley, the Illinois Cook County Board of Commissioners offered its highest tribute and message of congratulations on receiving the Laetare Medal, to Fr. McCarthy, Sr. Harrington and Sr. Gallagher "as a symbol of gratitude on behalf of the many lives that have been touched by the wonderful ministry of Spred". Read more here.
Sister Mary Therese Harrington S.H.
has been honored by the Archdiocese of Chicago
for 50 years of dedicated service
as staff member of
the Special Religious Development Agency,
Sr. Mary is pictured with Cardinal Francis George.
On this special occasion Cardinal George remarked to Fr. Jim
McCarthy, Spred Director, "You have created a model for the world."
We are grateful to Cardinal George for his support of Spred ministry.