It was a very moving memorial Mass for a very special person.

Residents, students, friends and family of G.I.F.T. Centre founder Cenacle Sr Jean Mary Sinclair remembered her fondly at the Mass celebrated on August 19 at Sinclair House in Mount Eden, Auckland.

Fr Ezio Blasoni, SM, explained each step to the residents, making sure they knew and understood what was happening.

Good Shepherd Balmoral parish priest Msgr Bernard Kiely led the enthusiastic group in singing. The Mass was attended by Sr Jean’s family and Cenacle Sisters Clare O’Connor and Mary Jackson Kay.

The residents also shared their memories of Sr Jean.

“I first met Sr Jean when I was 13 years old. I have been with G.I.F.T. for 39 years,” one said. “Sr Jean took us to trips to Australia.”

Another resident said, “I remember when I was new. I started to cry and Sr Jean said, ‘never mind’.”

Still another thought it was cool to have their very own angel in heaven. “Sr Jean never stopped praying for us,” he said.

In 1973, Sr Jean started the G.I.F.T. (Growth In Faith Together) religious education programme where she taught intellectually disabled children about the sacraments.

In time, G.I.F.T. grew to become not only a religious education programme but a residential programme with 10 long-standing residents.

G.I.F.T. religious education coordinator and board member Vivienne Aherne told NZ Catholic that Sr Jean’s legacy will go on.

“Sr Jean’s vision embodied servant ministry as shown by Jesus when he washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:14),” Mrs Aherne said.

“We continue this legacy by adapting our programmes collaboratively to give greater voice and ownership to our disabled friends as we grow in faith with them. Sr Jean’s commitment to prayer and the disabled community is an example that we strive to live up to through our faith,” she added.

Mrs Aherne said three main issues are being worked on: increasing the awareness of the centre and its programmes, addressing difficulties such as transport, and working better with schools and church groups to encourage volunteering.

“The greatest opportunity for G.I.F.T. in 2017 and beyond is to increase participation from our disabled friends, their whanau and the wider Auckland diocese so as to build this really special place,” she said.

Mrs Aherne said they had been working on their outreach, visiting parishes and sharing the G.I.F.T. story. “

We try to coordinate and assist with transport but recognise that we need more volunteers in this ministry,” she said.

Mrs Aherne cited the Remar students of Marcellin College who “help create a happy and fun-filled environment during our religious education programmes for us all to grow in faith together.” Remar is a Marist Youth Movement which forms young people in faith and Christian leadership.

G.I.F.T. Centre general manager Mylene Caballero said they always want residents to be happy and comfortable.

“Our mission remains the same: to make sure they (residents) have fulfilling lives,” she added.

The centre also holds religious education programmes for high-functioning intellectually disabled people once every fortnight.