At the heart of Sandra Zicke’s mission as a catechist has been the radical inclusion at the heart of the church.

“Everyone has a right to the sacraments,” she told Catholic San Francisco.

Zicke, a retired special education teacher, has taught in the special needs faith formation program at St. Veronica Parish in South San Francisco since it began in 1999. She said her involvement began because she never saw any of her classroom students in church on Sundays. At the same time, BVM Sister Julie O’Neill had been fielding requests for special needs catechesis from parents in St. Veronica.

“It started as a small program out of need and grew from there – like most things,” said Zicke.

The parish offers sacramental preparation classes for first communion and confirmation, taught by Zicke and fellow parishioners Rosa Avalos and Ken Sweeney. Each program takes two years to complete and students may enter at any age. Zicke said this year’s students ranged from 8-25 years old. The special needs program is supported by the archdiocesan Office of Faith Formation and funded by the Knights of Columbus.

Students can have “delayed cognitive skills, or be on the autism spectrum, or have severe behavioral issues, so there’s quite a range,” Zicke said.

In February three students were confirmed and in May another five students received their first communion.

The Saturday morning classes draw families from around the Bay Area. Parents stay in the classes with their children, which helps to reinforce at home what students learn about in class.

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.