Although we know that our Church calls us to look at everyone who is part of our parish faith community as having a right to be an “integral member” of that community, many times the community either doesn’t know how to serve the formational needs of the person with a disability or have access to specific resources. How do we help every member of our community grow in holiness?
The Diocese of Des Moines has collaborated with the National Catholic Partnership on Disability as an affiliated member for many years to provide awareness and resources to every parish community for free. Today’s short post represents the ministry of advocacy: advocating on part of our families and children who many times live in isolation because their children have not been welcomed or have received formation appropriate for the level of functioning. Many times families do not even present their children for sacraments or religious education because they feel that the local parish will treat their children the same way that most of society has: as a burden.
The goal of the Church, as proposed in the National Directory of Catechesis and in documents from the USCCB, clearly lead us to foster programs that offer persons with disabilities the right to receive religious formation but to be aware that they are also agents of this religious formation too.
We invite you to explore the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s website today: NCPD
Below you will find links to just some of their many resources. This is just a sampling and you will find many opportunities to lay a pastoral plan for developing an inclusive faith community within your religious programming.
Under the link for specific ministries and programming you will find resources for those on the autism spectrum, those who are deaf/hard of hearing, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, and mental illness. Specific Ministries Link You will also find resources on catechesis, ministry models, spirituality, building awareness and emergency plans. A profound work on awareness comes from Mary Jane Owen as she speaks about words, dignity and the touch of love. Mary Jane Owen Article on Words, Dignity and the Touch of Love
One of the best places to start on your own journey can be to read the 1978 Bishop’s Pastoral Statement on Persons with Disabilities. I have included the text at the conclusion of today’s reflection. Please contact the Diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis for additional assistance as you work with your parish leadership team and pastor to build an inclusive faith community.