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At Fernald’s Holy Innocents Chapel, local community members and residents of Fernald State School, a school for people with developmental and other disabilities, gather as a congregation each Sunday for Mass with Father Bill Leonard. Father Leonard, the chaplain of Fernald since 1992, greets each resident by name, encouraging them to participate in the choir or as altar servers and cross bearers.
In July, the National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (NAfIM) honored Father Leonard at their annual conference, awarding him the 2004 Leadership Award. The award is given out annually to a person who has given direct service of an extraordinary quality or nature to the disabled. It is specifically designed for those who provide leadership in promoting the inclusion of individuals with developmental delays in the life and ministry of the Church.
Ever since his ordination, Father Leonard has been deeply involved in ministering to people with developmental delays and disabilities. He previously served as a religious-education teacher at St. Ann Parish in Somerville, a member of the Advisory Board of the archdiocese’s Office for Persons with Disabilities, chaplain at Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, and in addition to his responsibilities at Fernald, is currently the pastor of St. Jude Parish in Waltham.
Father Leonard was unable to attend the NAfIM conference, and he was officially presented the award at Fernald’s Holy Innocents Chapel on Sept. 19.
NAfIM was established in 1968 to support persons with the developmental disability of mental retardation and to advocate for their full inclusion in the life of the Church. It currently promotes awareness and education about particular gifts and needs of all individuals with developmental delays through national conferences, newsletters and other publications, and its Web site, www.nafim.org.