Though he was raised Jewish, Edwin Mayer -- a resident of Inwood House, a residential community in Silver Spring, Maryland, for people with disabilities -- regularly attended the weekly Communion services held in that community, and after about a year of doing so, he decided that he wanted to become a member of the Catholic Church.

As a part of the outreach of nearby St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Deacon Mike Bond often brings the Eucharist to the people who live at Inwood House. Other times, Father Dan Leary, the pastor of that parish, comes to celebrate Mass. On one of the days that Father Leary was there, Edwin walked up to him afterward and asked if he could become Catholic.

Father Leary asked Chris Lake, another resident of the community who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, if he would help with some evangelization and teaching opportunities. This included sponsoring Mayer, who has a learning disability.

“For people with disabilities, loneliness can be a pretty heavy cross to bear,” said Lake. “…If a fellow person with a disability wants to become Catholic, how can I say ‘no’?”

Janice Barrett, another member of the Inwood House community who uses a wheelchair, also volunteered to help, and now the three of them meet about once a week to talk about different pillars of the faith as a part of a modified RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) curriculum. So far, they have discussed things like prayer, original sin, and the Eucharist.

Both Barrett and Lake participate in a catechism study group that meets at Inwood House, and Lake previously audited a class at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family in Washington. They are both passionate about sharing what they have learned about their faith with Mayer.

“I want to share my Catholic faith with others because I want everyone who I can reach to know our faith,” said Barrett.

Barrett is a parishioner at St. Andrew Apostle and has been bringing Mayer to Mass there with her, where he said he has enjoyed getting to know everyone. Barrett said she loves that parish because of how many fellowship opportunities there are.

“Every Catholic Church should have that,” she said. “People are lonely and looking for communion.”

Both Lake and Barrett said they were inspired by how quickly Mayer understood and believed the teaching that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ.

“I was thinking, I still don’t understand the Eucharist after many years of being Catholic – he accepted it right away,” said Lake.

Lake is also a convert to Catholicism, and said that is a big part of his mission to help Mayer learn about the faith.

“It is a personal thing for me,” he said. “I came into the Church, but I didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what the Church teaches…I didn’t have that foundation.”

Because he didn’t have that knowledge, Lake fell away from the Church and said it “took a long time for God to lead me back to the Church.”

“If I had a really good foundation in RCIA, I probably wouldn’t have left,” said Lake. “I want to help Edwin get that foundation so he never makes the decision I made.”

Now, Lake’s faith is foundational to who he is, and he said, “If I wasn’t not a Catholic, there is a good chance I would not be alive,” because he knows what it is like “being without hope, without God in the world.”

“Being Catholic is absolutely necessary for life,” he said. “The greatest blessing about it is I know God and God knows me. It gives me purpose…I was looking for happiness and fulfillment and only God can fulfill.”

Though Barrett is a cradle Catholic, she also fell away from the Church for a time, and said, “I found out who I was by coming back to the Church.”

“I had been through a lot,” she said. “It really helped me to know who I am and where I’m going.”

As for Mayer, who is going through this process for the first time, he said he has been “on cloud nine” ever since he had the opportunity to stand in front of the St. Andrew Apostle Parish community when Father Leary prayed for him and other RCIA candidates before sending them to the Rite of Election at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

While they are able to attend Mass or Communion services at Inwood House, Lake said it is important to both him and Barrett that they also bring Mayer to St. Andrew Apostle and “help integrate him into the life of the parish.”

Lake said while some people think the only pastoral need of people with disabilities is to have the Eucharist brought to them, he doesn’t see it that way. He and Barrett both want to encourage Mayer to go out and share his faith with the world.

In order to do so, Lake believes that supporting Mayer is “not just teaching about teachings, but also helping him to live the faith.”

“We want him to be out in the world living the faith,” he said. “…We are being brought into Edwin’s life to help him live it out. We are called to be his friends in Christ for life. That is an important and great blessing.”