SPRED (Special Religious Education) forms small communities of faith in parishes to welcome persons with developmental disabilities in order to foster participation in parish assemblies of worship.
SPRED began in 1960 when Fr. James McCarthy from the Archdiocese of Chicago began to work with parents, special educators and catechist volunteers. In 1967 SPRED was established as an agency of the Archdiocese. It is now part of the Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Worship.
SPRED serves the residents of group homes and state facilities within the Archdiocese of Chicago through collaboration with twenty-one agencies that each has multiple housing sites.
Parish based SPRED centers serve children, adolescents and adults who have developmental disabilities in the Archdiocese. SPRED catechists complete thirty hours of training. Presently there are 850 active catechists working in 136 SPRED Centers in the Archdiocese of Chicago. One catechist sponsor is available for each person with special needs plus a leadership team. 670 persons with developmental disabilities are served.