IM this article to a friend!

August 9, 2004

Deaf and disabled enjoy fun and faith-filled camp and picnics

From: South Texas Catholic, TX - Aug 9, 2004

By Georgina Stark & Liz Riggle
From August 6, 2004

The Diocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities kept the deaf and disabled of the diocese entertained this summer with fun-filled picnics in cities across the area and a three-day summer camp in Corpus Christi.

The office, run by outreach workers, Celia Mendez and Aurora Martinez, has been ministering to Catholics with special needs for over 20 years.

The summer picnics and camp are just some of the services offered, which include religious education classes and Masses in sign language, a deaf adult womens' program and the annual Spiritual Olympics music and drama performance, among others.

Over 100 Catholics with special needs from all across the diocese and as far as Laredo, came together for three days of fun and fellowship at the annual summer camp, July 19-21.

The camp is held every year at the Bishop Gracida Retreat Center at Corpus Christi Academy, to give the deaf and disabled a chance to get out, have fun, make new friends and give their parents or primary caregivers a short break. Martinez and Mendez run the camp with help from a few volunteers and men from the International Order of the Alhambra and Knights of Columbus fraternal organizations.

Campers are mostly adults who return year after year because they enjoy it so much.

Leo Hinojosa, 33, who lives with his mother in Odem, has been coming to camp for the past 16 years.

We have fun and get out of the house, he said. Hinojosa said his favorite camp activities are swimming and the dance that is held on the last night. I danced a lot, he said.

Ruben Trevino, 22, lives with his mother in Corpus Christi and said he didn't want to leave camp after Mass with Bishop Carmody on the last day. I don't want to go home, it's so fun, he said.

Others echoed the same sentiment and trudged slowly back to their rooms to collect their belongings on the final day, some hiding behind trees on the way saying they didn't want their parents to find them to take them home.

On the last day of camp, they jumped for joy to see Bishop Edmond Carmody join them for a farewell Mass. Ten campers carried signs bearing the Ten Commandments, the theme for this years' camp, up the aisle at Immaculate Conception Chapel at Corpus Christi Academy, which were displayed on the altar during Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Carmody reminded everyone that the gospels call all to love one another as they love themselves. We are all very special. We must look in the mirror everyday and say 'Thank you God, you made me special.'

Sometimes it's difficult to get along in life, but Jesus will take care of us. Isn't that great? Bishop Carmody told the congregation, who all shouted 'yes' in response.

During the three days, campers got to show off their special talents at a talent contest, performed skits, were entertained by Lanky the Clown, swam, danced, played games and prayed.

Many of those at camp also attended the summer picnics with their friends and families that were held throughout the month of July across the diocese. They were also organized by Mendez and Martinez, with help from the Knights of Columbus, who prepared all the food. This year picnics were held in Sinton, Alice, Corpus Christi, Robstown and Kingsville.

Over 70 attended the Robstown indoor picnic at Robstown County Park on July 24, where Bishop Carmody and Father Eduardo Montemayor celebrated Mass.

Everyone enjoyed dancing the day away as a D.J spun tunes and playing bingo, with each winner receiving a special prize.

Marty Sosa, 36, one of the lucky winners at bingo, winning twice, said he enjoyed the dancing and eating most of all.

Sosa, a parishioner at Ss. Cyril and Methodius, is the son of Josie Sosa and has a 20-year-old sister, Isabella, who is a senior majoring in special education at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

He is also a champion bowler, having just returned from Reno, Nevada where he won two gold medals in the National Unified Bowling League.

In his homily, signed by Mendez, Bishop Carmody reminded everyone that when you are sad, lonely, in pain, Jesus will be there for us. He told the congregation that while everyone at the picnic may not know each others names, Jesus knows each one of us by name.

He reminded the group what Jesus wants everyone to do Jesus wants you to love each other, he told them.

After the Mass ended, many participants lined up to greet Bishop Carmody and to have their photos taken.

For more information about the programs offered by the Office for Persons with Disabilities call Celia Mendez or Aurora Martinez at 361-814-2181.