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Rooted in Gospel values that affirm the dignity of every person, Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs provides unified pastoral and educational support for individuals with disabilities, and serves as a centralized resource for the Diocesan community.
Through direct service at Saint Catherine Academy or our Adult Day Program, and support in the Parishes or Catholic Schools for faith formation, The Center strives to foster the educational, spiritual and social well-being of people with disabilities.
Our Core Values
We respect the dignity and diversity of each person.
We serve people of all races, ethnicities, faiths, and economic backgrounds.
We focus on the total well-being of each person we serve.
We create a supportive and welcoming atmosphere, where each person feels a sense of belonging.
We celebrate the abilities and successes of each person.
We seek to build interpersonal relationships in a nurturing community.
We bring hope and joy to our students, clients, families, staff, and community partners.
New Canaan High School Class of 1978 Honors Memory of Katherine Schlegel
When Elena (Peters) and Stephen Schlegel lost their 20-year-old daughter Katherine last fall, members of the New Canaan High School Class of 1978 quickly focused their upcoming 40th Reunion celebration to make the event a fundraiser for Saint Catherine Center, where the Schlegels chose to honor Katherine’s memory.
Katherine Schlegel carried a bright, bubbly personality in life and was a quick friend to many people she met along the way. As her father Steve pointed out, “Katherine was always the brightest light in the room.” In a similar way, Saint Catherine Center has become a bright light to many area families of children and young adults with special needs.
“Many students and participants are now reaching the age where they need a new challenge,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director. “An expanded living and learning facility is becoming a top priority.”
Recently members from the Class visited Saint Catherine Center for a tour and to present the gift, which will go toward a capital campaign to help us meet the growing needs of the population we serve.
Special Success: Meet the Athletes!
A willingness to try new things has brought about some exciting new experiences for two young women in our Adult Program.
Cheering with the Stars
For the past four years, Tierra has spent Sunday afternoons with her teammates on the CT Stars Inspiration Team working on their cheer routines. “I like the dancing part,” Tierra says, “especially when we jump up in a ‘V’!”
Tierra’s mother, Nicole Latimer-Livingston, is assistant coach of the team, as well as president of the CT Youth Spirit Conference and its local association, Bridgeport Charge, which has won four national championships. “Tierra would attend practices and competitions with me and would always ask if she could do cheerleading as well,” Nicole says. So when American Youth Cheer (AYC) created the Inspiration Division for young people with cognitive or physical disabilities, Nicole got Tierra involved. She participates in three to four events a year.
Early this past November, the CT Stars Inspiration Team travelled to Kissimmee, Florida, to show off their skills in the AYC National Championships. Tierra enjoyed staying in a hotel and eating out in restaurants. When asked if she was nervous performing, Tierra said, “I wasn’t nervous because I was happy.”
Her mom concurs. “Tierra absolutely loves cheering.”
Triumphing with the Team
In September, Sami competed in her first triathlon—the Westport Tri—with help from members of myTeam Triumph, a nationwide program that brings volunteer athletes together with people with disabilities to help them compete and enjoy endurance events like triathlons and road races. In the Westport Tri, myTeam Triumph pulled Sami in an inflatable boat on Long Island Sound, then moved her into a special chair which was first pulled by a bike and then pushed over the finish line. The event, Sami’s 9th competition, was featured recently in Dan Woog’s “06880” blog.
Although Sami is nonverbal, her mother Lori can tell she likes participating in the events from how animated she becomes when she sees her new “angel” friends. “One of my most important goals for Sami is that she is an active participant in her community,” Lori says. “This group has been heaven-sent to us…Sami has made new friends whom she now runs into all over town. She has a whole new community of love and support.”
Adult Program Welcomes New Director
Mary “Brady” Cronin of Prospect, Conn., has joined Saint Catherine Center as the new Director of Adult Services. She will work closely with Executive Director Helen Burland to coordinate all program functions, from managing staff and developing Individual Plans for our young adult participants, to interfacing with the Department of Developmental Services. She will also work with Eric Spencer, Director of Education at Saint Catherine Academy, to maximize coordination with the school.
Brady comes to the Center with more than a decade of experience in child development and mental health counseling. Most recently she was Program Director for the Level II Therapeutic Group Home at Family & Children’s Aid in Danbury. In addition to coordinating daily care and treatment plans for the residents, she was responsible for maintaining all licensing and regulatory requirements. Brady has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Connecticut, and a Master’s in Human Services with a concentration in Clinical Counseling from Post University.
Brady feels confident her experience with adolescents will translate comfortably into working with adults with disabilities. “I was born into the field of helping others,” Cronin says. (Her mother, Kelly Cronin, was Executive Director of Waterbury Youth Services for 35 years.)
“We’re thrilled to have Brady on board,” Helen said. “She brings some excellent skills from her previous work with young adults—as well as a lot of fresh energy.”