There’s a quiet room at St. Aloysius Church in Leonardtown named after St. Lawrence. The story of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom helps underscore the reason for the room and the impetus for a growing community-based program in Southern Maryland that is touching the lives of people with “developmental differences.”

The story of St. Lawrence will come shortly. But first we set the stage for the story about Southern Maryland Community Resources (SOMDCR) with the words of Cardinal Donald Wuerl:   

“Each one of us in our own individuality, in our own uniqueness, not only manifests the glory of God, but because we are who we are, we actually bless and praise the Lord. All of us are highly prized, uniquely made individuals. God sees each of us but he also sees us together as the masterpiece of his creation reflecting his glory.”  – Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Cardinal Wuerl’s words were part of his homily delivered last year at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC at his fourth annual White Mass, which honors the gifts of all persons with disabilities and those with mental health challenges.

The Archdiocese of Washington includes all three Southern Maryland counties.

Bonnie Elward, a long-time advocate in the community for people with disabilities, heard about Cardinal Wuerl’s “Special Needs Ministry” and approached Rev. John Dakes, then pastor of St. Aloysius Church, about starting a local White Mass. From that small seed sown locally has grown a field of dreams for area adults who many label disabled but others call just “people with different abilities,” which in a real way describes each and every one of us.

That leads us back to St. Lawrence.  According to Catholic Online: “Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons who were in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, ‘Father, where are you going without your deacon?’ he said. ‘I am not leaving you, my son,’ answered the Pope. ‘in three days you will follow me.’ Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.