Client Stories ::


Image - Valerie

My name is Valerie Alcaraz. I am from California and have been totally blind since birth. I found out about Xavier Society for the Blind through a youth coordinator at Braille Institute, and have been a patron since 2002 (I was about 15 years old). I received the Propers of the Sunday Mass in hard copy Braille and got my first audio Bible on cassette tape from their library. I now get all my materials digitally since I frequently use a Braille display with my iPhone. I was really excited when I discovered that a book called Manual of Prayers and Devotions was available in BRF format since it was one of my best loved titles as a teen.

I graduated from Fullerton College with an Associate’s degree in Visual Arts. For the last three months I have been in China teaching English to orphans who will most likely be adopted by English speaking families. This center is called Bethel, and is specifically geared toward early intervention for kids who are blind or visually impaired. Our school also takes in children whose families have been given the tools and support they need to keep their child, so we do a lot of outreach to families with visually impaired kids as well.

I have a guide dog named Gravity, but for various reasons, she wasn’t able to come with me on this trip. I do miss her, but I know the work God has called me to here is worthwhile. I first heard about Bethel through a former student I had at my previous job. She originally came from China and her mom adopted her from Bethel. About a year later I followed Bethel’s Facebook page, and I saw a post asking for volunteer English teachers. I’m the second blind person from the United States to come and teach, and it has been an amazing experience so far. I try to include art in my lessons when possible.

Aside from my passion for children, I enjoy all things art, especially making tactile art that is relatable for blind and sighted alike. I have done painting, drawing, and ceramics. God has led me on an amazing journey and I can’t wait to see what happens next. XSB has been a big part of that journey and I am so grateful for all the material they provide in accessible formats. If you would, please keep Bethel in your prayers. You can keep up with me on my journey by reading my blog.

Brother Ricky

Image - Brother Ricky

My name is Brother Ricky Joe Cook, and I am a first year Novice in the Episcopal order of the Community of the Mother of Jesus Located in Chicago. I have been totally blind since birth due to Congenital Glaucoma.

Since becoming a client, I have received braille and audio materials from Xavier Society for the Blind. About two years ago I was looking for books on the Rosary in braille and found Xavier Society’s website. After signing up as a client, I received several wonderful pamphlets that greatly helped in my praying of the Rosary and deepen my devotion to the Blessed Lady.

Xavier Society has helped me in many ways, in particular with my church Bible study. Even though I am an Episcopalian I really enjoy receiving the Propers of the Sunday Mass. My Parish, St. James, has a Bible study group and we are using the New Collegeville Commentary for the Books of James, First Peter, Second Peter and Jude. Xavier Society transcribed the commentaries for each of the books and also transcribed the scripture portion as well. I am able to follow along as we go around the table and take turns reading, and I have even read to the group from my braille text.

I also enjoy receiving Xavier Society’s braille magazine The Catholic Review, which is a compilation of articles from several religious publications.

Xavier Society has also put me in touch with Father Jamie Dennis so that I could talk with him about becoming a server and lector at my parish here in Oregon. Like me, he is a braille client of Xavier Society for the Blind and he has a guide dog. Father Jamie assisted me in answering my questions and concerns about entering religious life and he helped me in talking to my Order about my habit, which I received in November.

I am very grateful to God for the work Xavier Society for the Blind does for the blind and I pray to Mary that she will continue the wonderful work they do.


Image - Randy

Randy became a client of Xavier Society for the Blind in 2005 after hearing about us from his local library in Austin, TX. Randy receives the Propers of the Sunday Mass and The Xavier Review in braille. He has been blind since birth but he has not let that stop him from practicing his Faith. He recently started to lector at his parish Holy Cross Catholic Church in Austin and has remarked that the parishioners “are very receptive towards me and a few other blind folks that go there.” Apart from our Mass Propers and The Xavier Review, Randy is an avid braille reader and enjoys books on saints and church doctrine. “I love this service and what it does for not only our Lord but for all the blind and visually impaired!” Randy said. Randy enjoys making new friends and would love to connect with fellow lectors and clients. If you’d like to reach out to Randy his e-mail address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Dr. David Ticchi

Our braille client Dr. David Ticchi

Our braille client Dr. David Ticchi

Dr. David Ticchi has made an impact on the lives of many, both with and without sight. He signed up as a client in 2009 after learning about XSB at the NFB national convention. He currently receives our braille Xavier Review.

Legally blind since birth, David graduated from the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA), receiving his B.A. in economics cum laude in 1967.  David next spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, continuing his interests in education and community service by working at St. Catherine’s Indian School (Santa Fe, NM). Later, David returned to Boston and enrolled in the Harvard Graduate School of Education, earning an Ed. M. degree in 1969, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in 1971, and a degree of Ed. D. in 1976.

From 1971 to 1978, David taught seventh-grade English at Day Junior High School (Newton, MA).  His classroom experience confirmed his interest in the role of disabled professionals. That interest became the focus of his research and academic work, resulting in the production of a 23-minute color documentary film, “A Blind Teacher in a Public School.”  This self-revealing glimpse of his own daily world-at-work, formed an essential part of David’s doctoral project, which examined the hurdles encountered by blind professionals in education. The film won national awards, was shown on PBS, was distributed internationally, and is a benchmark tool in many schools and teacher-training programs.  Partly as a result of the success of the film, in 1977 David was named among the Outstanding Young Men in America by the Jaycees organization.  David pursued that early success in film work by acting as executive producer on another documentary, the acclaimed 1993 “Out of Sight.”

Concurrent with his role as a teacher, David serves as Special Assistant to the President at the Legal Sea Foods Corporation. He administers the President’s Advisory Councils and teaches Ethics and Respect for Human Differences/Disability Awareness classes for managers and certified trainers. Earlier in his career David also spent several years as a business professional working with the Kurzweil Company which manufactured optical scanning text to speech technology used by the blind and reading disabled.

One of his proudest moments occurred in 1998 when David was named “National Blind Educator of the Year” by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). This honor truly crystallized David’s personal commitment to demonstrating the clear ability of blind professionals to succeed in a sighted world.

Despite travel and multiple work commitments, today David continues his pledge of community activism.  He has served on the Holy Cross Alumni Board of Directors, on the Board of Directors and Membership Committee at the Cambridge YMCA, and as a leader in the National Federation of the Blind on both national and local levels. David was chosen a Community Hero by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, and he was tapped to carry the Olympic Flame in the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay.  In 2003, he received the Massachusetts Governor’s Award for Community Service and in 2004, he received the Understanding Our Differences (Newton, MA) Leadership Award.

If you’re interested in reading more about him, Harvard Ed. Magazine wrote a great article on David which you can read here. To watch “A Blind Teacher in a Public School” click here. It is a pleasure to serve David and all of our clients!


Image - Tiernan

Tiernan is ten years old and first learned about Xavier Society for the Blind two years ago when he began his religion classes. The Church he attends had all of his religion materials transcribed by Xavier Society so that he can follow along with all of the other kids. They even sent braille stickers which Tiernan loves earning as rewards at the end of class. Tiernan attends the Maryland School for the Blind and is in 4th grade and has been blind since birth due to a chromosome abnormality. In his spare time Tiernan loves listening to music, watching movies, playing adapted basketball and soccer, camping, skiing, and whatever other adventures his family is up for. He recently made his first Holy Communion! We are so proud to have Tiernan as a client.

Sister Dolores Dean, OSB

Sister Dolores is a braille client and also proofreads many of our new releases in braille.

Sister Dolores is a braille client and also proofreads many of our new releases in braille.

Ordinarily when I am asked to write or tell about myself, I cringe. In my mind there is nothing really special about me. I’ve been blind since birth, had a good education—ending up in a small women’s Catholic college, felt called to the religious life, entered a Benedictine monastery, needed to leave after ten years, primarily because technology was not really available in braille and I did not feel happy in my community. I married, after many years was widowed, and then rejoiced to return to my Benedictine community.

But when I was asked to write about my life with Xavier Society for the Blind, I was delighted. Xavier came into my life in the early 1950s. The very first book I received was a small copy of The Ordinary of the Mass. Never before was the Liturgy available. Just reciting the prayers with the congregation was great.  Then I went to college. My friends were reading The Scarlet Lily, a novelized biography of Mary Magdalene—and it was in Braille. I could borrow it and feel one with those who loved the story. And then there was that wonderful novel, Sorrow Built a Bridge—the life of Rose Hawthorne. There was always a box coming to me and going back to Xavier. And this was good Catholic literature.

In the monastery I recall meditating on de Caussade’s Abandonment to Divine Providence, Thompsen’s The Hound of Heaven and The Imitation of Christ. These were all in braille which meant that I could read and reread and reread again. And much later there was the entire New American Bible all 45 volumes—a monumental and momentous undertaking! 

Being a Benedictine means that we recited the Divine Office or as it is termed today, the Opus Dei. We were praying in Latin. With the help of a sister, I transcribed the entire Office into Braille in Latin. As I submitted the volumes, the staff at Xavier bound them for me. What a thrill it was to have the text and pray with my community.

During those days I was able to transcribe two or three books for Xavier. The transcriptions were arduous jobs—all done using a braille slate and stylus. To tell you that I had plenty of callouses on my fingers is an understatement. Yet this was meaningful work and I loved it.

Over the years I became a certified proofreader and a certified transcriber and I did both for Xavier. Again, the work has been very special to me.

My life with Xavier covers more than books. It was my privilege to know many of those who worked for the visually impaired. I knew and loved and was encouraged by Fathers Klocke and McGratty. My close friends included Ann Murray, Mary Agnes (whose last name I can’t recall), Patty Mount who died tragically, and Jim Roeder. Now I count Terrence as a good friend and colleague—all wonderful and caring people. Each of them provided us with books which we could never have found anywhere else. They understood our craving for Catholic literature—modern and classic. Today, while there are many avenues available to obtain the books we crave, in the past this would not have been possible without the foresight of the Jesuit apostolate that chose to reach out with a special mission to the blind. All of your clients may not always remember the sacrifices that were made, but Xavier Society for the Blind has made a huge difference in our lives. Thank you.

Donna J.

Caption: Our client Donna smiling and standing near a window

Caption: Our client Donna smiling and standing near a window

Since 2004, I have been a regular recipient of braille and electronic materials from Xavier Society and I just want to say how very appreciative I am for all that I have received. I first got to know Xavier Society many years ago when a Nun made a small Prayer Book called The Children’s Mass for me. The book was a very small one that fit into my school bag and its covers were red. I also received from the same very kind Nun a book with blue covers called The Stations of the Cross and another companion book of Catechism lessons for Children.

Fast forward to today and I am so very grateful that I can have the chance to read and follow along with so many important Prayers, Feast Days, but most important of all, it helps me to stay close to God. My library of religious readings has been greatly enriched thanks to materials that I continue to request and receive from Xavier Society.  I am truly grateful to the staff for all of their help and I would encourage anyone who comes in contact with this very important organization to do whatever they can to ensure that Xavier Society continues to be a part of the lives of those who are blind and vision impaired.

I especially treasure my two collections; Advent with the Saints and Lent with the Saints along with books written about Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa.

It is often said that too many of us take the little things for granted but when it comes to being able to keep God as the center piece of my life and to stay in touch with scripture here is where I don’t. Xavier Society has enabled me to do both and I thank them for this and wish them many more years of success.

Dr. Kathie S.

Caption: Our patron Kathie with her guide dog

Caption: Our patron Kathie with her guide dog

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D. is a retired clinical psychologist living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with her ninth Seeing Eye dog. She’s been a Xavier Society patron for over thirty years. Kathie joined the Catholic Church in 1986, partly because of Xavier Society for the Blind. Kathie receives the Propers of the Sunday Mass in braille which she uses to lector, and other spiritual readings so she can grow in her Faith. Currently she is serving on her parish council and has had the joy of being a confirmation sponsor.

Katherine has published a memoir To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities, a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold and a book for seniors, half of whom will develop disabilities, Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life. All are available from the National Library Service and from Bookshare.

She originated the Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books with disability content through the American Library Association and an award for superior journalism about disability issues through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Locally, she started the Access Eau Claire fund through the Eau Claire Community Foundation to help non-profit organizations work toward full inclusion of people with disabilities. She says XSB is one of her favorite charities and she has gotten her parish to contribute as well. She’s a passionate advocate for access for all to the good things of life. In addition to her advocacy work, she is part of five book clubs and enjoys playing bridge. For more information about our inspirational patron, check out Kathie’s Blog here.

Dee B.

Image - Dee B.

Dolores (Dee) B. is a braille patron who uses her incredible talents to go above and beyond for others. With the help of our monthly braille Mass Propers, she leads the Responsorial Psalm at Mass in her parish all while playing the keyboard. Here is more about her:

I was born in November of 1955, which preceded my due date by two months, causing my blindness. My fascination with music probably began with a musical stuffed animal I cuddled in my crib. I was educated at the Texas School for the Blind and continued at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee.

I converted to Catholicism in 1983. It was then, by contacting the Texas State Library that I learned about the Xavier Society. They sent me books on tape required for the RCIA class.

My music ministry began at about this time. I served at Saint Luke’s Catholic Church in Temple, Texas, from 1983 until 1989, both keyboard and vocals. In 1987, I began volunteering at St. Mary’s Catholic School as a music teacher. In 1989, I transferred to St. Mary’s Catholic Church and served that parish until 2010. I was employed as the church director at Holy Trinity Catholic High School from 2002 through 2004. During that time the choir placed in state TAPS competition. I also perform for many weddings and funerals for the Catholic community in this rural area. In 2010 I transferred to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Killeen, Texas, where I am presently serving.

The Propers of the Masses which I receive from the Xavier Society are key to my being able to effectively minister to my parish. I have also received the Catholic Bible on CDs which is valuable to my spiritual growth.

I am grateful for having this opportunity to thank the Xavier Society by sharing my small talents. I hope to be able to help you even more through prayer.

**We’d like to thank Dee for her support over the years. Check out this video which showcases her talents. We are very proud to have her as a patron!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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