Client Stories ::

Rollie

Caption: Our patron Rollie is an accomplished organist and receives our braille materials!

Caption: Our patron Rollie is an accomplished organist and receives our braille materials!

Roland H. has been a braille patron for five decades – nearly half the time that our organization has been in existence! He is an accomplished organist and dedicated husband, father, grand-father and great-grandfather. He is a loyal patron that has seen many changes at Xavier Society for the Blind over the years, but continues to lend his support in any way he can. We are big fans of his, too! Here is a little more about Rollie:

After high school graduation from the Ohio School for the Blind, I received my bachelor’s degree from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. From there, I went to Chicago where I received a Master’s degree from DePaul University in organ performance. I began teaching organ and piano and performing in the Chicago area. These performances ranged from Masses, funerals and weddings to substitute organist for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox. For eight years, I hosted a radio show playing the organ. Writing and reading my own commercials was an added joy. Joining the Yamaha Corp. as a concert artist and marketing specialist really changed my life. It required lots of travel, and I really appreciated my guardian angel more than ever.

My greatest blessing is my family; my bride along with three children, seven grand-children and three great grandchildren are a real joy. A common thread running through all these activities is my use and appreciation of the Xavier Society for the Blind. I often read for daily Mass, and use the psalms from Sunday Propers every week. From 1961 through today, many dedicated workers and volunteers have allowed me and many others to borrow their eyes and energy to make our trip to eternity much easier.

Our braille patron

All of us at Xavier Society for the Blind thank Rollie for his continued support and encouragement! It is a pleasure to call him one of our own.

Lynn

Image - Lynn

In the mid-1980s a Catholic friend told me about Xavier Society for the Blind (XSB) and gave me the phone number. I called and soon became an XSB client receiving various magazines on tape and in braille. In 2002 I visited XSB with my husband and we gave a donation in appreciation of all your good work. Later I donated a pine needle basket I had made to be used in a silent auction fund raiser for XSB.

Years later when speaking with Christine of the XSB staff, I mentioned to her that one of the things on my “bucket list” was to hear Cardinal Timothy Dolan speak in person at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Six months later I received a call from Christine asking me if I could come to New York from California to participate in a St. Lucy’s Mass on Sunday December 13, 2015. My husband and I flew to New York. I brought up the gifts and gave them to Cardinal Dolan during the mass. I was so nervous and I’ll always remember how kind and reassuring he was. After mass, Christine had arranged as a surprise for me to meet personally with Cardinal Dolan and have my photograph taken with him. He was surprised to learn how far I had traveled to participate in this Mass.

In April of 2016 my husband and I made a Pilgrimage to Ireland with (former Executive Director of XSB) Father John Sheehan along with other clients of XSB. It was inspiring to have a Mass every day, talk about our Catholic faith and learn how XSB had been so helpful to all of us through the years by providing Catholic literature in accessible form. I enjoyed seeing and touching so many religious monuments, learning about the history of each of the sacred Catholic sites and the life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. 

I continue to receive braille materials from XSB along with their e-mail newsletter. XSB has become an important part of my spiritual life and I encourage all of my Catholic visually impaired friends to join me in helping support the valuable work of the Xavier Society for the Blind.

Father Larry

Fr. Larry, a long time braille patron, is currently director at the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Creighton University

Fr. Larry, a long time braille patron, is currently director at the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Creighton University

At the age of eight years I was given a “terrible gift” of losing my sight through a fall from a porch’s railing. The fall resulted in a blood-clot on my brain. I had to switch from the Catholic grade school I was attending to a public school program for the learning of braille.

Upon graduation I was thrilled to be accepted to Marquette University High School in Milwaukee. Thrilled, because, as I told my parents, I did not know much about this Catholic Faith into which I had been born.

I did not use braille very often those years nor during my two years at St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Those six years deepened my faith and a desire to be a Religious. Because of my being blind, I never thought of being ordained a priest, but because I loved hard physical labor, I was attracted to the life of a Lay Brother within the Society of Jesus. Again, I was thrilled and a bit surprised when the Society accepted me as a Novice Brother in the summer of 1960. During my first few months, I was informed about Xavier Society for the Blind, a ministry of the New York Province of the Jesuits.

My Novice Director sent for some braille books, the first one being the biography of Brother Andre a Holy Cross Brother in Montreal. Eventually I read in Braille the Confessions of St. Augustine and many others.

The liturgy then was in Latin, so every Sunday a fellow Novice would record the Readings and prayers for the up-coming masses. Then, behold, the little braille booklets for the Sunday masses became available, what a gift! Books on tape of all kinds assisted me in my advancing in the Jesuit spirituality and my own studying of Theology.

After Vatican II the Brothers were allowed and encouraged to advance themselves in academic studies which I did, receiving my degree in English from St. Louis University in 1966. Xavier followed me through those years and my three years of teaching at Campion Jesuit High School in Wisconsin. It was during those years that I was encouraged, even challenged to consider requesting my Superiors and eventually the Vatican, to receive special permission to receive ordination. During those years of seeking that permission I was allowed to study Theology at Regis College in Toronto. Xavier followed me there as well with their sending me liturgical texts, recorded books for prayer and study.

I was again thrilled to receive permission to be ordained which I did in the Gesu church in Milwaukee in 1972. Amazing! It still is! The Xavier Society has been and remains an amazing friend to me. Each month I receive a copy containing all the Readings and prayers for the Sundays and major feast of the month. I have a well-used copy in braille of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I have a full set of the New Testament. I listen to digital books of all kinds of topics which are helpful for my personal prayer and communal liturgies. I have been celebrating a weekend-mass at a local diocesan church here in Omaha for over thirty-five years. Without those monthly Braille mass books that would not be easy or even possible. I keep a complete three-year cycle of these books over there on my shelf. I presently am the director of the Ignatian Spirituality Center at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

It has been quite a life of being assisted by Xavier Society from those old bulky hand-brailled on only one side of the sheet to now with all the advancements to which Xavier has kept up. I personally am deeply thankful for this group over the past fifty-seven years. I am grateful to the benefactors as well who have supported Xavier Society as well as the Society of Jesus.

Dwight Sayer

Dwight Sayer is an audio patron and is the President of the National Association of Blind Veterans

Dwight Sayer is committed to creating awareness for the blind in every sector of society. Dwight became a patron in 2011 and has been using our audio library ever since.

A Veteran of the Air Force, Mr. Sayer was Honorably/Medically Discharged in 1969 due to blindness and is the current President of the National Association of Blind Veterans - a Division of the N.F.B.

He has been involved in many different organizations always championing causes involving the blind and visually impaired. Of particular note, he is Immediate Past First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida and Past President of the Greater Orlando Chapter of the NFB of Florida. Dwight has recently retired from the Consumer Advocate and Community Relations Manager position for MV Transportation, Inc, covering all of North America on ADA and Transportation issues dealing with disabled citizens riding fixed route and paratransit systems.

“I became a user (when Xavier Society’s former Executive Director) Father John was elected as National Chaplain (of the N.A.B.V.) and I was introduced to the services of the Xavier Society. I am a 100% service connected disabled Veteran, and I have gotten several things in braille and large print that are not available through the Veterans Association. I am a super user of the audiolibrary and do most of my communication digitally. Thanks to the training I have received from the VA’S Birmingham and West Palm Blind rehab centers I travel independently and go where I want to go and do what I want to do. Thanks big time to Xavier Society for the Blind as they have had the braille and large print items not available elsewhere. I pray you guys will continue to flourish.”

Born in Rochester, New York, Mr. Sayer now resides in Florida with his wife Patty and two children.

Inés

Photo - Our audio client Inés

Photo - Our audio client Inés

When I first started to lose my visual acuity, I reacted like everyone else—with disbelief and prayed that it was temporary or could be cured.  Within 2 weeks of learning that I had permanent damage, I came to realize that it was OK. God has a reason for everything and I just need to trust in His wisdom. I don’t need to ask “Why?” because He knows the reason and it’s a good reason. So, I wasn’t to feel sorry for myself. I took the initiative of searching out what was available for the blind. I discovered XSB through a sighted friend who came across an XSB ad in a small Catholic prayer book. She brought it to my attention and gave me the phone number. I quickly phoned and signed up for services. That was the start of a beautiful relationship.

I receive Catholic books on CD that feed my thirst for spiritual growth and closeness to God. Living in a small community surrounded by cotton fields means that there are not many places to seek spiritual sustenance outside of Sunday Mass. XSB has been a blessing by providing spiritual readings that inspire me, lead me to reflection and prayer.  When I received the New American Catholic Bible on CD, I was grateful and astonished at the generosity of XSB. Here was God’s Word now accessible to me again. When I was given the Bible in large print, I touched the volumes with joy and appreciation for now I could also hold the Word of God in my hands and turn its pages as I used to do. I shall make of these Bibles as I continue writing my scripturally-based book on living with radical change.

These books have often become a part of my morning prayers. After my morning prayers, I listen to one of the XSB-provided audio books for several minutes as another way of praying because prayer is lifting yourself to God and the books help me to do exactly that. I used the audio book The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by Fr. James Martin to lead a book study group. The other participants are sighted and followed the audio with their copies of the book. I could pause the audio book for questions and discussion. It worked wonderfully and helped me introduce my friends to Jesuit spirituality.
 
I don’t know what’s ahead for me but I don’t need to know. I trust that God will show me what he wants from me now that I cannot drive or do some things I did before. Somehow, I believe he wants to use me to show others that we the blind and visually impaired have much to offer. Now that I have software that magnifies the screen and reads aloud what is on the page, I am determined to go back to writing…a book about finding peace through faith when faced with sudden, dramatic life changes. My goal is to help others through reflection and Scripture to attain spiritual peace no matter what happens in their lives. I hope that these books will inspire children and their parents to aim high and not to limit themselves through fear of taking risks. True, we have a physical limitation, but everyone has limitations. Not everyone can read music, but not everyone can read Braille. Nor can everyone be a political leader, but we blind folks can lead people in an unlighted, dark street at night.  I guess I believe in the old army recruiting slogan, “Be all that you can be.” To do less is to not be who God made us to be—a sign of His love and kindness.

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