Catholic fraternity offers support to intellectually disabled

Baltimore, Md., Jul 12, 2013 / 04:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The International Order of Alhambra, a Catholic fraternal order, has served the intellectually disabled youth and young adults of the world for over a century, and now looks to the future.

Roger Reid, the order’s executive secretary and past grand commander, said the organization follows Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew.

“What you do for the least of your brethren, you do for me,” Reid paraphrased.

He said the organization provides the opportunity “to join an international fraternity that has the single purpose of assisting developmentally disabled children and young adults.”

The order supports developmentally disabled people and their parents through funding education and work training, summer camps, field trips, parties and the Special Olympics.

Many Alhambrans are parents of individuals with intellectual disabilities. They join the organization for its social and spiritual events for themselves and their children, which accompanies its charitable work.

“We provide group homes, Alhambra Houses, that house and quarter six to eight intellectually disabled children or young adults,” Reid told CNA July 11. “We provide the seed money for these group homes.”

The order supports eight such homes across the U.S.

In the past year, the order has given out $110,000 in scholarships to college juniors or seniors pursuing a career of teaching special education children or young adults.

The organization also preserves Catholic heritage through identifying and supporting Catholic historical places, events and people.

The Order of Alhambra uses themes and styles based on Moorish Spain and the Near East. Its name comes from Spain’s palace of Alhambra, where the Moors surrendered to the Spanish monarchy in 1492 after 800 years of occupation.

Alhambran regalia includes a white fez, a type of hat popular among Turks before the 20th century.

The order was founded in Brooklyn, New York, in 1904 and is now headquartered in Baltimore. Today it has almost 2,300 members in the U.S. and Canada, with over 150 joining in the past year. Over 100 of its members are Catholic clergy.

Pope John Paul II was a notable member of the organization.

Membership is open to practicing Catholic men and women aged 18 and over. The organization opened to women in 2011 and there are presently 66 women members.

The order has 55 local divisions, called “caravans,” with a new caravan set to launch later this year in Longueuil, Quebec. Members are most numerous in Texas, Michigan and Maryland.

Reid said that anyone interested in supporting the intellectually disabled by joining a caravan or starting a caravan in a region without one should contact the Alhambrans. The group’s website is www.orderalhambra.org.

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