Client Stories ::

Mara

Our young braille patron Mara, pictured with Fr. Agustin from her parish.

Our young braille patron Mara, pictured with Fr. Agustin from her parish.

Mara is a braille patron who exemplifies everything our organization is about. She is enthusiastic about her faith, and recently served her first mass to the delight of her friends, family and fellow parishioners. We’re also extremely proud! Her mother Roxanne wrote to us shortly after Mara’s big day:

“Thank you again for sending the server guidelines to us in braille. Having this accessible to her in this format that she could read anywhere at any time most definitely helped her with her confidence to be a server. Mara served for the first time at mas​s​​ with our wonderful newly ordained priest, Fr. Agustin. ​It was such an awesome experience, not only for her, but for many who were there to witness. We had so many people come up to us after mass commenting on how ​fantastic it was​ to see her up there on the altar just like any other 5th grader. She also had the opportunity to serve at a school mass with two of her best friends​ and our pastor Fr. Jerry​.”

Mara sent us a video explaining what our services mean to her, cheekily adding “I’m a great server now - not to brag!” The video was a huge hit on Facebook and Twitter and can be viewed here

 

Father Jamie

Fr. Jamie is a braille patron

Fr. Jamie is a braille patron

Father Jamie is a newly ordained priest who also happens to be blind. He receives our braille materials and uses the Propers of the Sunday Mass to celebrate Mass every Sunday in his parish. In December of 2016 he celebrated our St. Lucy Mass for the blind in St. Patrick’s Cathedral to the delight of all. We had a little chat with him before the celebration to learn more about him:

What services do you get from Xavier Society for the Blind? Does it help you with your ministry?
The services that I use from XSB are the Sunday Propers for the Mass. I prefer to use braille, so these publications of the readings and Mass prayers enables me to use braille exclusively when I celebrate Sunday Masses and higher feast days.  I also have the basic book which has the prayers from the old Latin Mass, which eventually I plan on learning how to do as a priest.

At what age did you feel the calling to be a priest?
I felt the calling to be a priest probably as early as 8 years old, since I used to play Mass outside on a hay bale, using a dog dish and a coffee can.  Interestingly enough, the only words that I had memorized from Mass were the words of consecration from the Eucharistic Prayer. I did not have the move to answer the call until I began college at Brescia University.  It was at Brescia that I was able to go to daily Mass…on my own, so that’s what I did.

Do you have any siblings? If so, are they sighted?
I have two siblings, a brother and sister, who are 18 years older than me.  I am the only blind person in my family.

What’s your favorite part about being a priest? What has been the most rewarding part?
My favorite part of being a priest is celebrating Mass and giving Jesus to his people in the Eucharist.  I love giving people the comfort of Jesus that he gives me in the Sacraments and in his Gospel.  Sometimes it takes a wounded healer to bring healing.

What has been the most challenging part about being a priest?
Before I was ordained, I feared that there would be difficulties because of my blindness, and that was what I was continuously told by the seminary, but that has proven to not be true.  To the people that I serve, blindness is not an issue.  The only slight issue I have experienced is from those who frown on traditional practices and this is an issue that several priests and young people of my generation are having.  Some view our love of traditional practices as an unhealthy love of the nostalgic.  What some people forget is that my generation and the ones behind mine are in a world of broken families and chaotic times.  Traditional practices in the Church give us a feeling of stability and sacredness that the world does not have.  I am not saying that I think Mass should be in Latin only, much to the contrary, but I am for celebrating the current Mass in a style of what was considered the norm before Vatican II.  Needless to say, I chant most of the Mass parts, not just because I prefer chant, but when I am reading braille, which is a second language to me, the chant helps me to flow and not stumble.  Those who don’t understand us who like traditional practices forget, it’s not about being nostalgic, but this is how we pray.

Who is the greatest influence in your life?
I would say my mom and dad have been the greatest influence in my life.  They have always supported me and been there for me.  They did not hand me over to a school for the blind to raise, but they made the sacrifices to keep me in regular school and fought for my right to do so.  My mom and dad, James and Ain Dennis are my biggest fans.

If you could spend an hour one-on-one with anyone in history, who would it be and why? What would you ask him or her?
Someone who I admire is St. Harvey, who was a monk of the 500’s.  He was born blind in Europe and was known to be a great teacher and healer.  He was approached by a bishop who wanted to ordain him, but he refused.  I would have liked to ask him why he did not want to be ordained.  He was also known to be a singer and had a wolf as a companion.

Father Ron

Fr. Ron is a braille patron who uses our materials to serve the elderly

Fr. Ron is a braille patron who uses our materials to serve the elderly

Father Ron has been a braille patron of Xavier Society for the Blind since 2002, and uses the materials he receives from us to serve the elderly. We are proud to have him as a patron! Here is what he had to say about XSB:

To say that I have loved seniors would truly be an understatement. Indeed, they have been and continue to be my greatest teachers, wisdom-bringers and guides. From my mid-teens onward, I have found nurture and a sense of profound humility in the presence of those much older than myself, as I have been taken along as a passenger on so many adventurous roads!

At first such trips caught me quite unawares. A student of Sociology, Philosophy, Political Science and Cultural History, I eventually landed in the seminary where I would make it my life’s ambition to serve seniors as a priest and a chaplain. Now several years into my ministry, I serve several Assisted Living Facilities whose residents exhibit a wide array of gifts and challenges.  I facilitate support groups, visit residents individually, lead exercise classes, call bingo, and, of course, lead worship and singing.

Since 2002, I have been receiving the monthly Propers of the Sunday Mass in Braille provided by Xavier Society for the Blind. The Propers prove useful, not just for my own personal faith practices, but in helping me to lead worship for seniors. Since I receive the Propers weeks in advance, I am able to assign readings and prayers to the seniors. I have found that this not only empowers them by giving them a sense of purpose, but it empowers them to own parts of the liturgy - in a way, to make the liturgy their own. It gives me great pleasure to see them smile when we can share stories and songs together, and the richness of our life together as we share old memories in the creation of new ones lies at the heart of what we do. I am grateful to have Xavier Society for the Blind as a resource, as it also helps me to support those whom I love to serve.

Antonio

Our client Antonio, reading his braille Mass Propers during Sunday Mass

Our client Antonio, reading his braille Mass Propers during Sunday Mass

Antonio is one our newest and youngest braille clients. An avid braille reader and lover of Mass, Antonio was dismayed when he was not able to follow along with his parish’s missalette. After signing up as a client, Antonio began receiving our monthly Propers of the Sunday Mass in braille and has never looked back. His mother Michelle wrote “I wanted to share a picture of Antonio following along in braille…We are very thankful that he is now included in every aspect of Mass! Antonio even showed it to Fr. Jim from our church and he was so impressed that he can read braille fluently! Thank you again!” We are so happy to be able to provide the materials for Antonio and our other clients. Antonio epitomizes the heart of our mission, as Xavier Society for the Blind was founded in 1900 to provide learning materials for blind children.

 

Dick Nenno

Dick Nenno reading braille while floating in the Dead Sea

Dick Nenno reading braille while floating in the Dead Sea

Dick has been a client of Xavier Society for the Blind for over thirty years and is an attorney with Wilmington Trust Company in Wilmington, Delaware. Dick and his wife Mimi raised their three children in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Here’s what he has to say about XSB:

I have been a Xavier Society for the Blind client since the early 1980s. Receiving the Sunday readings in braille each month enables me to study scripture far more closely than I could through audible versions. Using the braille readings, I have been a lector at St. John Chrysostom Church, Wallingford, Pennsylvania, for 35 years. I often lector at the monthly Mass of the St. Thomas More Society, the organization of Catholic Delaware lawyers. Congregants often compliment me on my outstanding eye contact, which is possible because I read with my fingers. My wife Mimi and I always will treasure the pilgrimages we took with XSB, particularly the one to the Holy Land. In Israel, I availed myself of the chance to read a braille New York Times while floating in the Dead Sea. Other pilgrims—blind and sighted—clamored for the same opportunity. XSB long has been a central part of my spiritual life. Mimi and I regularly support its fine work financially and hope to increase our contributions in the future. Thank God for the Xavier Society for the Blind!

Dick and Mimi Nenno with Malachy Fallon, XSB executive director.

Dick and Mimi Nenno with Malachy Fallon, executive director

Client Stories