BY SCO Admin | January 20 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Glasgow disability charity calls for volunteers to help spread friendship

THE new director of SPRED Glasgow, which works with people who have learning disabilities, is launching a push to bring in volunteers and take the group into every part of the archdiocese.

Lisbeth Raeside took over as director late last year and is keen to grow the group’s mission to help people have a rich and fulfilling spiritual life.

“The big challenge is to grow SPRED and grow it alongside the way the Church is changing in Glasgow,” she said.

One ambition, she said, was to have SPRED represented in each one of the parish clusters, so that between parishes there are enough volunteers and facilities for any parishioner with a learning disability to find a way to be part of Church life.

SPRED wants to find everyone with a disability who might want to be involved.

“It can depend on whether their care providers believe people with a disability have a right to spiritual life,” she said. “But if someone says ‘there aren’t any people with a learning disability in our parish’ I find that very hard to believe.”

There are currently 171 SPRED catechists and 72 volunteer drivers spread among 26 groups. Anyone with a learning disability, including Down’s syndrome and autism, is welcome, regardless of age.

“People who come to the groups are called ‘friends.’ Once the friends join they tend not to leave. We accept everyone as they are, not attempting to change or rehabilitate, just to accept people as they are with gifts they bring,” Ms Raeside said.

The SPRED method was created in Chicago in the 1960s and has since been replicated by groups all over the world. It involves a one-to-one friendship model and working to create a spiritual atmosphere.

The director said the appeal of the method was profound to people with disabilities.

“There was a young man who has been in SPRED since he was a child and he told me ‘I love SPRED, it’s dead peaceful, and I never want to leave it.’”

She said care centres and homes were often noisy, and this young man may have recognised a need in himself for the peace and quiet he finds in SPRED.

She spoke about another friend who recently returned to SPRED after her parish group had closed for some years.

“She said she loves coming to Mass at SPREAD because she can join in and not just watch,” she said. “She’s allowed to exercise her right as a Baptised person, and not just be a spectator.”

As well as having a huge impact for many people, SPRED has also changed Ms Raeside’s life. She got involved six or seven years ago as a catechist and said the organisation had had a huge impact on her Faith. A former chartered accountant who worked in local government, she took early retirement after doing a degree in theology.

“I like to understand things,” she said. “I wanted a deeper understanding of my own Faith and SPRED came along at a time when I was looking for a way to put my faith into action.”

She also sees the work of SPRED as key to the pro-life mission of the Church.

“I think there is now much more appreciation of people with learning disabilities as having something to offer,” she said.

“But there’s also a wee suggestion that it would better if they didn’t exist. I was just reading that almost no babies with Down’s syndrome are born in Norway anymore. SPRED is a natural consequence of us being pro-life because we see that every life has value; every person has value.

“I’m very conscious of the gifts our friends bring and if these gifts are lost because someone doesn’t feel welcome in a parish, the parish has lost something, an opportunity to receive those gifts.”

Her passion for SPRED is clear and she urged others to get involved.

“I would say come and see. On the last Tuesday of this month there is an information evening—just come and see if it might be for you,” she said. “If it is, you will experience Church in a very special way, you will get a very special experience of friendship and you will get back 100-fold anything you put into it.”


The information evening is on Tuesday, January 31 at 7pm in the SPRED Centre, 20 Robroyston Road, Glasgow G33 1EQ.


—This story ran in full in the January 20 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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