Priest holds virtual church concerts for man with autism during pandemic
The pandemic has been especially challenging for the families of people with autism and other special needs as schools and other programs were shut down.
And for one young man from Maplewood, the world became even smaller when the church he attended could no longer allow visitors.
St. Joseph Catholic Church's Father Jim Worth performed his regular concert virtually when the pandemic hit. He did it mostly for the young Maplewood man who was watching from home.
Ben Hack, 21, has autism. Before the pandemic, his days were filled with school, Sunday Mass and Father Jim’s regular concerts and musical meditations he calls “Solace Concerts.”
“It was very challenging because everything went away,” says mother Mary Beth Walsh. “He couldn’t really understand why everything went away.”
Other people can some to watch Father Jim’s concerts. But he did it really for Ben.
“There were born of my feeling that he was missing out on stuff he loved. He was in Mass every single Sunday. So for him to miss all this time…that’s a long time for someone who can communicate freely and easily,” Father Jim says.
Ben’s family says that even just knowing there was a concert scheduled lifted his spirits for weeks.
“We couldn’t tell him when he would go back to being able to go to the grocery store or to church or any of that. But we could say there’s another concert, Father Jim’s concert. Three Tuesdays. They’re just such a source of joy for him,” says Walsh.
Ben graduated from school last year. He is now attaching classes at a school for young adults with developmental disabilities remotely. His family says that they hope he will be able to return to in-person learning soon.