Faith and Light
Celebrating the gifts of God’s special people
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
They came into the large room one by one, some smiling in anticipation, others a bit apprehensive, their friends or family—or both—in tow.
Some were talkative, eager to chat. Others were quiet as a church mouse (but not so quiet that they were immune to bursts of laughter).
They were young and, well, not so young, men and women, English and Spanish speaking.
Despite all the differences, the one thing they all had in common is that they were surrounded by unconditional love and acceptance.
This is Faith and Light, a non-denominational monthly gathering for people with physical and intellectual challenges, their friends and family. It is hosted by Virginia and Frank Sumaya. Virginia embodies sweetness and light and unconditional acceptance, while Frank goes from sharing his wisdom-filled teachings on the Gospel to showing joyful acceptance of the participants disguised as fun-loving needling. Both equally shine the light of Christ on all those gathered.
After several years of overseeing the monthly gatherings, they are slowly transitioning to another host. But when new facilitator Claudia Lucero called Virginia just hours before the Jan. 21 event after having become ill, Virginia quickly organized an itinerary and gathered up the supplies.
Among those participants was Margie Sloan, who brought with her Kiley Kline and Milton Rivera, one shy, the other in perpetual anticipation of conversation. When asked if she was their mother, Sloan replied, “No, I used to work at Arrowhead West, and we became friends. I bring them to the meetings—with their parents permission.”
Each gathering is opened with the beautiful litany, “Everyday God.”
Earth’s creator, Everyday God,
Loving Maker, O Jesus,
You who shaped us, O Spirit,
Recreate us, Come, be with us.
Eleven verses are sung. After each line, a participant holds a large, colored placard that reads, “Everyday God,” “O Jesus,” “O Spirit,” or “Come, be with us.”
“God is there for everything we need, every day,” Frank Sumaya said in English and then in Spanish. “Every day he is something different that we need.”
“What is prayer?” Virginia Sumaya asked all those gathered. “Tom, would you like to share?”
Tom Patterson, a man in his 60s who’s been coming to the gatherings for more than a decade, can’t answer. He’s too busy laughing. It was something his friend whispered. But that’s okay. Laughing is part of the joy of the moment. Seconds later he answers, “It’s asking God to help people.”
There are several more thoughtful responses. Then Frank says of prayer, “You share your pain, your sacrifice, but mainly you say thanks! What if you lost everything and then suddenly got it all back? Would you feel the same? Probably not!”
Virginia discussed many types of prayer, including adoration, which she described as “praising God simply because He is God.”
“Contemplation” she said, is spending time with God in silence, relaxing and being attentive to God’s presence.”
The most important kind of prayer, Virginia said, “is the Mass. It is important because it brings us together as a community to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.”
A supper always concludes the Faith and Light event. Many people brought desserts and salads, while a chili dinner was provided. The sharing continued; more laughter, more joy.
“See you next month!” a smiling man shouts as the participants filter out the door.
If you would like to attend a gathering, volunteer to help, or to form a Faith and Light community in your parish, call (620) 682-0455.
Faith and Light presently numbers more than 1,450 communities on five continents in 83 countries with 38 different languages. Two thirds of the countries where Faith and Light is present suffer from great economic difficulties or political instability. Members of Faith and Light communities come from different Christian traditions without distinction of age, culture or income.
-- From www.faithandlight.org