We first met Andy when we began our mission of evangelization on college campuses in Colorado. His mother, Mrs. Peterson, is the secretary at the university parish. Upon our arrival, Andy welcomed us and gave us a tour of his family home. He began by saying, “I hope that you will be able to understand me, because I have Down syndrome.”
A gracious and attentive host, Andy noticed me hard at work and asked if I needed anything. I replied, “Andy, will you say a prayer for me for this talk I am writing?” He responded, “Oh, I pray every day. I will pray for you.” I inquired, “You pray every day? You must be close to God.” He responded, “Oh, we are very close.” I was fascinated, so I pressed him, “Is He your best friend?” He replied, “No, we are more than friends, we are one. I’m in Him, and He is in me.” I was stunned; I was completely amazed by his response and knew I was in the presence of Christ Himself. I took a couple steps backwards, aware that I was standing on Holy Ground. Once again I was moved by the wonder of God’s ways; it is often through those whom the world might least expect, that the splendor, beauty, and wisdom of God shines most brightly. From our first meeting with Andy we knew we had a good friend and ally in our mission; he is one of our most faithful intercessors and prayer companions. We trust that Andy’s prayers have won many graces for us and our students. He often assures us of his prayers and once said, “God wants me to tell you that you always have my prayers.”
We asked Andy and his mother to share some of their reflections on life:
Can you tell us about yourself Andy? One thing I know about God is that He wanted me, and He wants me to love. God has been my guide every day, and I love Him a lot. He is in my heart; He is my life and my strength.
How do you spend your time? Every Tuesday morning, I go to a nursing home. I help bring the people in their wheelchairs to the Mass. Every Sunday, I am the sacristan at Mass, and I love it. It’s an honor to help the priest. Friday afternoons, I work at a restaurant cleaning – last year I was employee of the month. I help people in times of need. When my neighbor calls me and needs help with recycling and carrying heavy boxes, I always help her. She is pretty old, and I think of her like family. Everything I do, I want to help people because God once told me that we are so lucky to have wonderful people in our lives.
Do you feel like you have a special mission? I know I do. God raised me to be a wonderful person and friend for other people. People ask me, “What is it like to live with God?” I say it feels very special.
Where do you get your strength? From God. Because I know how much people need my help, so I do it. I just use my heart and my muscles and help others.
What’s the best part of your day? God knows – I pray every night. Also, my dad and I read together every night. We read The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and right now we are reading about Tarzan.
How do you look at people when you meet them? When I meet someone I think they are one of us. I think how special they are to God. God loves all people. You know, God wants us to help other people – even strangers, the disabled, or someone who has Down syndrome. It’s up to all of us to help them. I had a friend who passed away, and I miss him. You know, I pray for my friend every day. And God answers my prayers. I will see him again when I pass away. I want to live a very long time. I have to take care of all the people I love.
Can you tell us about your prayer? I ask God every day to help the Sisters of Life and other people around me. I pray with all my heart and my life. The one thing I like about God is that He uses me to help the people I know.
Mrs. Peterson: I really think Andy has super powers when it comes to prayers. God hears his prayers in a very special and maybe a little different way.
Andy: One time when my grandmother was living with us and she had a blood clot. My parents were not home and could not answer their phone. So I called my parents’ friend and asked him to go get them.
Mrs. Peterson: It was really an emergency, and Andy had to think and act very quickly. He probably saved her life. Andy: After that, my mom said to me, “God is proud of you.”
Mrs. Peterson: Then he said, “You could say, I work for God.” That’s been his motto ever since. “I work for God.” Andy, you have spoken at the local schools about people with disabilities. I have an extra chromosome and that chromosome belongs to God. It is from God. It’s between me and God.
How do you think of God? He is a Father to me just like my dad is. I told my mom yesterday, that He has showed me the true meaning of life. If it wasn’t for Him, we wouldn’t exist.
Do you feel like God is with you all the time? He is in my world. At Mass, I feel like He is part of us – like I am part of Him. I look at Him when He looks at me.
Was it a surprise when Andy was born with Down syndrome, Mrs. Peterson? Yes. Andy was the second of our five children, and I did not know that Andy had Down syndrome before he was born. I didn’t know anyone with Down syndrome. But I thought, “Okay, we can handle this.”
Andy: I was born at 2:30 p.m. on November 6th. That’s my birthday.
Mrs. Peterson: He was the cutest baby, with red rosy cheeks and a big smile. Our oldest daughter, Jessie, was 2 years old when Andy was born. People would come over to meet him, and Jessie would open the door and say, “Come on in and meet my brother, Andy!” It was such beautiful, total, unconditional love. I thought, “I need to see him, to see this experience with the eyes and heart that Jessie had.” And of course, it didn’t take me long. He’s been just a blessing. With all your children you want them to be good and holy. And Andy is good and holy. Sometimes if I would be upset or angry with the kids, Andy would say to me, “Mom, you are not alone. You have to know you need faith, you need hope, you need love.” And I am thinking, “He is teaching me! Where did he get that?”
Andy, do you have any advice for someone who might be suffering or lonely? Have courage, strength. They are not alone because they have God. Maybe they should try sometime to pray.
What would you say to others who don’t know how to pray or believe that God loves them? I would say, “Fold your hands like this, and say something that’s in your heart to God.” If they just try – it doesn’t hurt to try.
Mrs. Peterson: I will die one day, I will be long gone, and I want to be remembered as Andy’s mom. Forget my name, just remember Andy. Because I know that so many people who are conceived with Down syndrome are not born. I just want to be remembered as his mom. Over the years, I just see him as a pure blessing. He is pure blessing. It’s like living with Jesus.
Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Winter 2017.