b"A Home For All SeasonsWhile the pandemic raged, houses of faith reached out to their most vulnerable membersBY TIA SWANSONLeft: Father Jim, the parish priest at St. Joseph'sCatholic Church, with lifelong member Ben Hack, who is autistic. Below, Father Jim, wearing orange glasses (Ben's favorite color), recorded a concert for Hack to ease his difficulties during the upheaval COVID wrought.I n the months before the pandemic, Ben Hack, whoIt was a difficult moment for him, as it was for all children is 22 and a lifelong member and regular at St. Jo- and young adults, especially for those with special needs, sephs Catholic Church in Maplewood, became anmany of whom thrive on habits and schedules and were be-unofficialgreeteronSundaymornings.Hackisfuddled as to why those schedules came crashing down.autistic and doesnt speak much, and social inter- Father Jim, a musician who spent many years in music actions can be difficult for him; nonetheless Jamesministry before becoming a priest and who regularly held WorthFather Jim, the parish priestremembersconcerts for his parishioners before the pandemic, heard of that he took to welcoming fellow parishioners with a bigHacks difficulties and reacted in a way only a pastor might: hug and a Whats up? he planned, performed, and recorded a concert of Hacks Everybody was delighted, Father Jim recalls. favorite music. Twice.The church is a second home to Hack, and its congrega- Hack reacted with glee. The concerts were scheduled for tion has long embraced the young man.the same day he and his family normally go grocery shop-All of that ended abruptly when COVID shuttered notping, an event that is sacrosanct: Youre not allowed to only the church, but also Hacks school, where he was in hisviolate the shopping schedule, says his mother, Mary Beth last year and looking forward to graduation; in a moment,Walsh, with a laugh. But as soon as Hack heard about the all the routines of his life were gone, and for a reason heconcert, shopping went out the window.could not fully comprehend. Hack was not the only young person with special needs 14/ matters magazine / summer 2021"