Bishop Knestout blesses Brendan Malone, a resident of the new St. John’s House, at an Oct. 14 Mass at nearby St. John the Evangelist Church in Silver Spring. Earlier that morning, the bishop blessed the new residence for people with disabilities.
Bishop Knestout blesses Brendan Malone, a resident of the new St. John’s House, at an Oct. 14 Mass at nearby St. John the Evangelist Church in Silver Spring. Earlier that morning, the bishop blessed the new residence for people with disabilities.
The red brick split-level home looked the same as every other house on the tree-lined street located a few blocks away from St. John the Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring, except for the group of people gathered on the front lawn.

About 30 friends, family and parishioners celebrated the opening of St. John's House on Oct. 14, officially welcoming the two residents of the home - persons with intellectual and physical disabilities - to the neighborhood and to the parish.

Although Brendan Malone is unable to express his feelings in words, the young man grinned from ear to ear as Washington Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout blessed his home.

"It's an opportunity for the residents to have a home in the midst of the community - connected to the neighborhood and the parish, too," said Bishop Knestout. The parish especially can be involved in service to the residents of the St. John's House, the bishop added.

Last summer Malone and David Geske moved into the St. John House, an independent home for adults with intellectual disabilities a short distance away from the church. Along with their caregivers, Malone and Geske will be able to participate in parish life at St. John's.

The home is the second house opened at a local parish by Rosaria Communities, Inc. a non-profit organization owned by the archdiocese providing affordable housing for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities. Rosaria Community partners with local parishes, the Jubilee Association of Maryland, Inc., as well as local and state governments to provide the full spectrum of care for disabled persons. Rosaria Communities opened a similar home at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Gaithersburg in 2009.

"It's a relief," Vicki Malone, said of her son's new home. "I know he is well taken care of," she said. "He's happy here."

Michael Padgett, Malone's previous caregiver, attended the house blessing with his family and brought some house-warming presents including towels and books.

Mary Ellen Barringer, a consultant for the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, described the house as an "amazing public, private partnership" that does two things for people with disabilities - provides a home and a parish where "the two young men are members of the parish and participate in the sacramental life of the Church."

These efforts are "trying to help people with disabilities become fully integrated - including them right in the community," noted Msgr. John Enzler, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. "It speaks of the Church recognizing the value of those who have different disabilities," he said adding that their participation in parish life is a "visible sign we are all part of the Body of Christ."

"This is a home where neighborly life will flourish," said Mary Lynn Boss, executive director of Rosaria Communities, Inc.

Boss credited the involvement of the residents' families, the archdiocese, and local and state governments for the brick home on Harmon Road.

Steve Allen, director of development for the Jubilee Association of Maryland explained that the neighborhood house model helps separate housing and other services for persons with disabilities. According to the web site, Jubilee Association "provides opportunities and support for people with developmental disabilities to live in and enrich their community while fulfilling their personal, family, and spiritual needs."

Allen noted that after "years and years of institutionalization, volunteers felt there had to be a better alternative." The St. John's House can allow the residents to have neighbors, get to know people in their parish and live an enriched life, Allen added.

Thomas Welch, president of Rosaria Communities called the St. John's House, "a fulfillment of the mission - that's what we're here for," Welch said.

Boss agreed. "The efforts by a few have made and will continue to make an extraordinary difference in the life of the residents and in the life of the St. John parish community," Boss added. "This is God's work."