"The Special Person has a very importont role in our midst. He creates on opportunity for us to exercise the human heart, to be human agaln. We depend on them to teach us how to enable our disabled hearts, while we the able-bodied enable their disabilities. It is a sharing of gifts," says Alaric Wang.
A THOUSAND questions, doubts and regrets often arise when parents discover their child is intellectually disabled. Why did this happen? Why us? What did we do wrong?
MrAlaric Wang, 50, grappled with these questions when his son Joseph was born nine years ago. The intellectually disabled are often misunderstood, discriminated against and laughed at. The pain that they and their families suffer as a result is one that does not go away.
Faith and Light International was born out of these families need for support. It is a spiritual and ecumenical movement that began in 1971 in a Roman Catholic context. Faith and Light Community, Singapore, is 10 years old, with three communities based at the parishes of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady Star of the Sea.
Mr Wang, the Vice Provincial Coordinator for Singapore, explained that the community celebrates the lives of its intellectually disabled members, the "Special Persons" at the heart of the community.
"We see the Special Person as equal in dignity - not ability, but dignity. We treasure the Special Person as we treasure each person, who carries within them the gifts God has given them," he said.
The community draws its inspiration from Jesus' words in the Gospel of John (9:1-3). The passage describes an episode in Jerusalem when Jesus walked past a blind man and his disciples asked him: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus replied: "It was not that this man sinned or his parents, but that the works of God may be made manifest in him."
The Faith and Light Community exists to witness to the ways in which God's glory is being made manifest through intellectually disabled persons.
"When you look at the intellectually disabled, their ability to forgive, to be affectionate, warm, spontaneous and welcoming are so great that it cuts through all barriers," Mr Wang said.
The intellectually disabled person's heart is "so happy and so able", he added, whereas "we able persons carry with us so much baggage that our hearts become disabled".
"The Special Person has a very important role in our midst. He creates an opportunity for us to exercise the human heart, to be human again. We depend on them to teach us how to enable our disabled hearts, while we the able-bodied enable their disabilities. It is a sharing of gifts," he said.
Each parish community of about 20 members meets once a month. They sing, pray together, read and reflect on Scripture together, and share what has been going on in their lives.
It is an opportunity for parents of the intellectually disabled to be together with other parents, to share their feelings, pain and be nurtured by the community. They find support and comfort in one another and better understand their own and each other's struggle," Mr Wang said.
The three-hour meetings often end with feasting, when birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions are celebrated.
The community also goes on outings together to places like the zoo, for walks and picnics. These help Special Persons and their families integrate with the wider society.
Looking ahead, Faith and Light Community, Singapore hopes in its second decade to make itself better known, so that the "closet intellectually disabled" and their families can step out with the community's help.
Mr Wang sees Faith and Light as part of the Church's whole wax of being pro-life, of cherishing life at every stage and in ever person.
While the Church's pro-life groups provide support to parents while the disabled child is still in the womb, Faith and Light continues that support after the child is born for families of the intellectually disabled.