CulturED Café with Michelle Newland
On the evening of November 11, the Archdiocesan Office for Youth hosted an inspiring Cultured Café, featuring 31-year-old Michelle Newland, a parishioner from Resurrection Parish in St Albans. Just three days after her 19th birthday, Michelle suffered a massive asthma attack which resulted in a severe acquired brain injury that left Michelle unable to communicate, eat, or walk.
Over 50 young people gathered in an intimate setting to hear Michelle’s support worker Cindy Raconalli introduce the story of Michelle’s recovery. While medical staff initially declared that Michelle would be in a vegetative state for the remainder of her life, her family was determined to pursue ongoing therapy. With limited options for care, Michelle was forced to live for some time in a nursing home, before eventually returning home. Here, for the past decade, she has been on a long journey to recover her speech, movement and independence.
While Michelle now speaks regularly at school events and other functions to share her story, Cultured Café was an opportunity for her to focus on the role faith has played in her recovery. She gave a moving testimony to the young audience where she reflected that for her “faith is like oxygen to my brain... without it I cannot live.” She shared that she often meditates on the suffering of the Crucified Christ, and feels called to be a witness to God’s love while encouraging other young people to persevere in facing their struggles.
Michelle, Cindy and Michelle’s mother Anne welcomed the questions of the audience, which meditated upon the Christian response to suffering, faith as a source of hope, and how Christian communities can welcome people living with disability.
Words by Leeanne Grima, images Christian Diez, Archdiocesan Office for Youth.