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Autism Awareness Month: Animating Hope

Posted : Mar-31-2016

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​The following reflection is by Joseph Trozzo, parishioner at St. Padre Pio Parish in Kleinburg. In 2014, he and his wife Nancy attended the 29th Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers on the theme, "The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope."

As the father of a child with autism, I know firsthand the trials and challenges in providing care and spiritual guidance for a special needs child. My son, Julian, now 11 years old, was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. Many things changed that day for me, my wife Nancy and Julian's older sister Sophia. During this difficult time, our faith was challenged; however, our commitment to attend Sunday Mass each week gave our family the graces we needed to endure a difficult time in our family life. We faced many challenges when bringing our beautiful boy to Mass. Unfortunately, many are unable to empathize with the complexities of caring for with individuals who are on the spectrum of autism. With 1 in every 48 children being diagnosed with autism, this has become an epidemic and one that must be taken very seriously. ​

Families raising a child with autism require love, support and guidance. Most importantly, they want to feel a sense of acceptance within their faith community. Having individuals with special needs attend Mass benefits the individual, their family and the wider faith community, as we celebrate human dignity and the beauty of all human life. People with special needs remind us that all are welcome to celebrate the Good News.

In November 2014, Nancy and I had the pleasure of attending the 29th Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers in Rome which focused on the theme, "The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope." This gathering aimed to bring awareness of autism to the world. The experience was outstanding. Pope Francis made an appearance and celebrated a special Mass with the participants. It was a very moving and surreal experience. Much scientific information was gathered and compiled into a booklet for further review.

Returning from the conference, I was convicted that we must work together as a community of faith, to welcome all families at Mass. This is the best place for them to receive comfort and share in the beauty and graces present in the Eucharist.

April 2, 2016 is World Autism Awareness Day and I invite you to join me in prayer for all those affected by autism.

Prayer for Autism Awareness Month

Loving God,
Bless today in special ways
all the children, adults and families
who see the world through the window of autism.
May Your Spirit burn bright in them
and all who celebrate and honor the richness of our diversity
during this Autism Awareness month.

Grant us, O Lord, the wisdom
to see your image reflected
in all of our differences, and to recognize the unique gifts
we each have to offer.

May the doors of ministry in our Church
Continue to open wide in welcome to all of God's family.
We ask this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.

About Autism:

The eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2, 2016. Education is paramount about autism and autism spectr​um disorder (ASD). These are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. Social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behaviours are just some of the difficulties with which an autistic person lives. The spectrum is wide and every individual diagnosed with ASD displays varying degrees of behaviour. The categories or syndromes can range from intellectual disability, motor coordination and physical health issues. Some persons with ASD excel in visual skills, music, mathematics and art. Let us understand the accommodations necessary for those in our parishes diagnosed with autism. (from:

Books and resources:

  • Sutton, Lawrence R., Ph. D., How to Welcome, In​clude, and Catechise Children with Autism and Other Special Needs, Loyola Press, Chicago, Ill., 2013.
  • Robison, John Elder Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, Random House Publishing, September 9, 2008.
  • Langston, Kelly, Autism's Hidden Blessings, Discovering God's Promises for Autistic Children and Their Families, Kregel Publications , July 2011.

Online Resources: