TOLEDO — The 23rd Annual Diocesan Celebration of Catholics with Disabilities will take place Sunday, with the presentation of the 2021 Open Arms Awards.

The Open Arms Awards recognize Catholics with disabilities and their advocates who model Christian service in their parishes and communities. Bishop Daniel Thomas will be the main celebrant for Mass at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary Catholic Church, 715 Jefferson Ave., Defiance. The award presentation will take place after Communion.

This year’s Open Arms Award recipients are:

St. Mary Catholic Church

In May 2018, St. Mary Catholic Church underwent an eight-month renovation project that restored the inside of the church to a gothic architecture. St. Mary’s has a long history of hospitality to parishioners and visitors, making people of all abilities feel welcome. Rev. Randy Giesige and parishioners decided they wanted to make the sanctuary handicap accessible and cut pews so parishioners in wheelchairs could sit with their families. A new ambo on wheels was also designed, after the regular ambo, that can be wheeled out so lectors with disabilities could participate in that ministry.

Last year, a new addition began to make the church more accessible for those confined to wheelchairs, which will be completed in July. The addition includes a handicap ramp, as well as handicap-accessible bathrooms. Before, if someone in a wheelchair had to use the restroom during Mass, they had to use a ramp that led them outside and then they had to come in through another door to use the restrooms. This was unacceptable, especially in inclement weather. Fixing this problem was the main reason for building the new addition.

Matthew Adams

Matthew Adams is a parishioner of Divine Mercy, Paulding. He had a brain injury, which has changed his ability to talk and his brain functioning. Matthew is able to live independently, but he also has seizures, so his parents regularly check on him. He lives within walking distance of the Antwerp church location, and attends Mass faithfully.

Adams has been an altar server for more than 30 years and is dedicated and reliable in this ministry. If Matthew notices that there is an event going on at the church or the parish center, he will often stop by because he is very much engaged in the life of the parish. Adams is great in dealing with young children or elderly people.

Before the pandemic restricted outside visitors, he also volunteered every weekday at the local assisted living facility, The Manor House. He loved his volunteer work, and the residents and staff appreciate him very much. He looks forward to returning to this work. Matthew is proud of his work in the community and is a proud Eagle Scout.

Peter and Eileen Ueberroth

Peter and Eileen are parishioners at Epiphany of the Lord, St Thomas Aquinas Campus, Toledo. They have been married for 50 years. Ten years ago, Eileen was placed on a ventilator for 10 days. The doctors did not think she would live. When Eileen finally came off the ventilator, doctors told her she would lose her hands and legs. Peter is Eileen’s main caretaker, and she tells everyone how incredible he is and how lucky she is to have him.

Before becoming Eileen’s caretaker, Peter was the archivist for the Diocese of Toledo, a job he loved and did after he retired from the IRS. He had to quit his job and transform his house to be handicap accessible in just a few weeks.

When Eileen became ill, his life turned upside down. Peter has been Eileen’s only caretaker ever since ... he is her hands and legs. They are a blessing to young married couples, with their life example they have honor their marriage vows, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”

Diane Reinhard and

grandson Elliot Ritter

Diane Reinhard is the parish sacristan at All Saints Catholic Community, New Riegel. Her grandson, Elliot Ritter, helps her set up for Mass. During Mass, he loves following the prayers and readings with her in the missal. Ritter is very creative, loves to read and write, has a good sense of humor and is very sweet. Reinhard plays a big part in Ritter’s life, and invited his family to move in with her when it became evident Ritter would transition to a wheelchair.

At six months of age, he was diagnosed with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Reinhard had a son Lucas, (Elliot’s uncle) who lived with DMD until his death in 2012. She also gave her daughter Denise, Ritter’s mom, her SUV, which was wheelchair accessible. The unending love, faith and service surrounding Ritter’s family, is a strong witness to everyone at the church. The parishioners see Ritter as a very loving young boy.

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