Archdiocese of Chicago

Catholic Chicago Blog

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sharing Stories of Faith Lived

By Joyce Duriga

At the Catholic New World we get to tell stories about the different ways people live out their Catholic faith. It's often inspiring.

Two recent stories come to mind.

The first is the story of Sean Nelson, a boy diagnosed with Down syndrome 14 years ago and who graduated June 8 from St. Thecla School, 6323 N. Newcastle. It was the same school his sister, his mother and his grandmother graduated from, the same school his three younger brothers attend. He will be a freshman this fall at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles.

Sean’s story is not a common one. Few Catholic elementary schools have accepted students with Down syndrome or other cognitive delays, fewer still have kept them as students from kindergarten through eighth-grade graduation.

Sean's parents really wanted him continue the family tradition of attending St. Thecla so they lobbied the teachers and administration -- each and every year of his eight years there -- to keep Sean in the school.

“We wanted Sean at St. Thecla because it was the right place for him,” said Shannon Nelson, Sean's mother. “But if his teacher was not confident that he should be there, it wouldn’t be the right place for him anymore. When we started, the short-term goal was to make it through First Communion.”

But, she noticed, each year, the teacher whose class Sean was leaving would come to the meeting and try to encourage the new teacher to have Sean in his or her class. The ones who started out hesitant turned out to be Sean’s biggest cheerleaders.

Sean graduated from St. Thecla and will attend Notre Dame College Prep this fall, a school with a special-education curriculum.

That was truly a story of faith lived.

The second story is of Chantal Baros Wilson who searched for modern, affordable Catholic toys for her nephews and found slim pickings in the marketplace. The nice toys were either very expensive or had outdated religious imagery. Instead of lamenting the situation, she created her own Catholic toys.

She began by creating dolls based upon images of Mary and is adding other saints as she goes along.

The 27-year-old said that she wanted to make a toy that was affordable at $12.99 and that would meet children where they were at.

“I do think it opens the door and gives children a love for something from a very young age because I think we can all remember our favorite toys when we were little,” she said. “They get a special place in our heart.”

Baros Wilson graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she trained as an oil painter, and had to learn everything about making dolls from the ground up.

The dolls are sold now in more than 100 stores across the United States and Canada.

Another story of faith lived.

There are many stories like these in the Archdiocese of Chicago and we get to tell them in the Catholic New World. It's a good job to have.