May 6, 2012 - Programs for the Developmentally Delayed

posted Apr 26, 2012, 8:53 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated May 9, 2012, 9:22 AM by in apropos ]
Introducing guest speaker Sister Peggy Youngclaus from the Franciscan Hospital for Children, Jonathan Downs said that his son Kaleb was “thrilled that his teacher is here”. A thrill that those in attendance soon experienced as Sister Peggy shared her story.
A sister of Notre Dame (not related to the university), Peggy opened her talk by introducing the vision of Notre Dame’s founder: to teach the peasants in the fields and to know “How good God is”.  As a young nun, Peggy taught 1st grade for 15 years. After which she often quipped, “It took me 15 years to get out of 1st grade.” She then moved to Washington, D. C. where she taught disabled children and developed a special program to teach them reading. When she was advised that she needed a Masters Degree to publish, she returned to the Boston area to earn her Masters degree and ended up earning a nursing degree, as well. Armed with this additional education, she developed an assisted living program for elderly sisters of Notre Dame and served in this capacity for three years.
Followed by a well-deserved sabbatical, Peggy met someone during this time that suggested she consider applying for a position at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton. Little did she know that it would still be available at the end of her sabbatical and that she would be hired on the spot. “It’s a job from heaven,” Sister Peggy said. Serving 40 students from the Kennedy Day School, Peggy spends ½ hour a week with each of them. In this capacity she has been a teacher of Kaleb Downs for 11 years now. “They love the music,” Peggy said, “We share a lot of music and a lot of stories. The smiles on the kids faces make going to work a joy.”
When asked what she learned from working with disabled children, Peggy said, “Disability is totally secondary. A child is still a child. Like Jesus taught, issues are always secondary. The person always comes first.”

In addition to her work at the Franciscan Hospital for Children, Sister Peggy has helped develop the non-profit ‘Simon of Cyrene Society’. For over 25 years, this society has worked with members of the physically and developmentally disabled community in a variety of ways. Including monthly liturgical celebrations for families, weekly groups for mothers, weekly groups for fathers, and vacation/respite homes on Cape Cod. From a modest beginning of nine people, membership now exceeds over 500 with people from more than 55 communities.
Today, Peggy hopes to cut back her hours at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in order to help insure that things are in place for the continuation of the ‘Simon of Cyrene Society’. In support of that effort, a Grace member asked what she wanted from us at Grace. Peggy’s answer actually did not come from the world’s economy but from God’s. She said, “I ask that you treat any disabled person you meet with respect and dignity. They just need someone to love them”
While Fr. Tom, co-founder of the Society, assured Peggy that the Society will continue on if it comes from God, some Grace members indicated that they might want to help it continue on through a monetary donation. Along those lines, donations to the ‘Simon of Cyrene Society’ can be mailed to:
     Sister Peggy Youngclaus
     SND, P. O. Box 54
     South Boston, MA 02127

Jay Burke