Thank you for your desire to minister to poor. They are often forgotten by those to whom God has given so much talent. I am reminded of something that Einstein once said when asked why he did not copyright his work. “Knowledge is freely given to us and is meant for all.”
I recommend that you contact the Maryknoll, Capuchin Brothers, or Jesuits. I know they have volunteer corps that work in the USA and abroad as well. You may also want to contact your local office for Catholic Charities.
A friend referred me to your post, as I too am involved in ministry to people with autism. As I read your post, I notice that you and I have some things in common. Originally, I achieved a BS and BA in mathematics and philosophy. I wanted to go on to graduate school to study theology, but my parents could not afford to pay for that.
I needed a job, after college. During high school and college I had volunteered to tutor kids with learning disabilities at our local Yeshiva. I taught math. I sent out some resumes and was quickly picked up by a school for children with developmental disabilities as a math teacher. I spent six years at that school. While there I took courses at the local university to get certified in special education. I didn’t get the degree, because I still had my heart set on attending graduate school for theology; but special education paid the bills. I also attended every workshop and continuing education course available to me.
Eventually, I went for the MA in theology and then the PhD in Philosophy of Theology. During that time I met a young medical doctor and we married. We had three children. Our youngest was diagnosed with autism at age four. Two months after this, my wife was driving my father and our three children to the beach. They were in an auto accident. My wife, father and oldest son were killed in that accident. I was left a widower with a nine-year old daughter and a four-year old autistic son.
I realized that God had been preparing me for this very special time in my life. My theological background taught me that God is a merciful God and a wise God. He never leaves us alone. As I looked at my two young children I knew that I had to do something that would make a difference in their lives, the Church and the world.
For many years I worked as Director of Pastoral Care for a Catholic diocesan foundation for people with developmental disabilities. This allowed me to apply my knowledge of theology and persons with special needs. I served as an educator to priests, deacons, religious, catechists, seminarians, and lay people who wanted to serve those who have developmental disabilities.
The years passed and an opportunity came to go to a developing nation to found a college for teachers, social workers and counsellors for people with developmental disabilities. It was a private secular university that invited me to join their faculty and start this college, but I saw it as a call from God to serve this population. Eventually, that project was complete and I moved to the USA.
Today I run an institute for children and adolescents on the autistic spectrum. I not only do admin work, but also a lot of spiritual care of the families who live with the challenge of autism.
I then thought about my parish and wrote a proposal to my pastor to begin a ministry in our parish for families who live with developmental disabilities. He liked it. Today, one of our parish priests and I are working on the design of such a ministry. We have not gotten off the ground yet. It will take several months before we have trained volunteers, but it’s in progress.
By the way, I also worked closely with my son’s schools. He studied with the Sisters of thee Immaculate Heart of Mary. They knew nothing about autism, but were willing to help. They helped him and I helped them learn. Today, my son is a college freshman majoring in art.
I share this with you as a testimony of hope. God gives more than he takes away, if we are generous with the poorest of the poor. Hang in there. Feel free to ask as many questions as you like.
God bless you