Our faith teaches that every child should be welcomed as a gift to the family and to the community because each of us is made in the image and likeness of God and endowed with a dignity that comes from God alone. Thus, it is not surprising that Catholic families and the Church are leading the way in modeling the inclusion of persons with special needs into the fabric of community life.
Today at the Seventh Faith, Deafness and Disabilities Conference hosted by our archdiocesan Department of Special Needs Ministries, faith-based and secular agencies came together for conversations and workshops on building community to support the development of all of members. One workshop in particular looked at a study conducted by CARA and supported by the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities, and Potomac Community Resources (PCR), which looks at the resources currently provided to persons with disabilities so as to offer a real sense of our strengths and weaknesses in building communities of inclusion. Later this evening, PCR will honor those who have made outstanding contributions to building communities of welcome and inclusion at its annual benefit dinner.
Continuing to expand our Catholic reach is of utmost importance as public agencies undergo significant changes in funding and services. Many people may not be aware that new federal and state laws are changing the landscape of how our communities and nation support and care for persons with disabilities. It is assumed that localities will need to step up and make more services available to persons with disabilities and others at recreation centers, social service agencies, and other places in the community where people gather and spend their time. In this context, many agencies have begun to look to the Church of Washington for help.
We have a number of local groups who do excellent work in serving persons with disabilities. Rosario Communities, for example, offers small group homes for adults with developmental disabilities and their residents are full and active participants in the life of the parish community. PCR promotes the full inclusion into community life of teens and adults with developmental differences by providing over 35 therapeutic, recreational, social, educational, and respite care programs. This model, which has had tremendous impact on families in the Potomac area, has now spread to the District of Columbia and all five counties of the archdiocese.
“A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value,” recognizing all others as a gift, Pope Francis tells us (Message for Lent 2017). As we move forward, I encourage you to support and, in your own way, advance these efforts at full inclusion and participation of all persons in their diversity in the life of the Church and the greater community.