Dr. Lawrence Sutton, director of pre-theologian formation at Saint Vincent Seminary, has a new book released in fall 2022 by Lambing Press, Autism and Holy Orders: How To Help Seminarians With Autism Become Effective Priests.
“I have been waiting for decades for such a book to appear. I have taught men in pre-ordination formation at several seminaries and universities, in the United States and in Rome, and I have seen far too many men suffer needlessly because of misunderstanding of their condition…. Autism and Holy Orders will be useful for faculty and formators, bishops and abbots. But my hope is that it will gain a much wider audience. It should be read by parents of boys and men with autism who are considering the seminary. It will be useful to the candidates themselves, for their own self-understanding and for their experience of community life. It can be tremendously helpful for parishioners who wish to understand the priests with autism who serve them.” —From the foreword by Dr. Scott Hahn, president of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
“Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II outlined four ‘pillars’ that are essential in a seminarian’s preparation for the ministry and life of a priest: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation. He intentionally began with human formation… Deacon Sutton applies this key concern as it pertains to assisting seminarians with autism, a developmental disorder that may be overlooked or misunderstood. I have consulted with Deacon Sutton for more than ten years, and i have seen his insights applied in concrete situations. Vocation directors, seminary formators, and Bishops will appreciate his professional and practical insights. I highly recommend Autism and Holy Orders.” —Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown.
“Dr. Sutton has done a tremendous service to all who minister in religious formation and to the Church at large. Every vocation is a gift from God and, now more than ever, dare not be squandered. This book masterfully identifies autism not as an insurmountable barrier to a genuine vocation, but as a condition that can in most cases be easily managed for the benefit of the person, his religious community, and the Church.” —Archabbot Martin Bartel, Saint Vincent Archabbey.
Dr. Sutton is an ordained deacon and a psychologist specializing in developmental disabilities, especially autism spectrum disorders. He is the former manager of the Western Region Office of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism Services and is nationally recognized for developing his own methodology for providing religious education to children with special needs.
The guide, he said, will help people working with children with autism to use best practices to manage behavior to enhance their educational experience; gain insight into how to reduce some of the challenges that these children face; and identify and cultivate the gifts and strengths these children possess to prepare them for the future. Grounded in the Catholic principle that every person has dignity and possesses gifts to be shared with the greater community, Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting will help educators become agents of God’s grace in improving the lives of children with autism, Dr. Sutton notes.
In addition to its Illumination Book Award in Education, his book, Teaching Students with Autism in a Catholic Setting received an honorable mention in the Catholic Press Association 2021 Book Awards, in the pastoral ministry, catechetical category. He is also the author of How to Welcome, Include, and Catechize Children with Autism and Other Special Needs: A Parish-Based Approach.