The Fifth Annual Faith, Deafness and Disabilities Conference

One of the core principles of Catholic social teaching is the commitment to the protection and promotion of the dignity of human life in all of its stages and all of its expressions. When I think about the face of the Church in the Archdiocese of Washington, I see the faces of those parishioners I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with over the years who live with various levels of ability and disability.  If you usually attend a Mass that is spoken aloud, but have attended a Mass which is signed, you have experienced the Word being proclaimed as it has always been, and yet in a new way. If you know someone with Down Syndrome, you have experienced the gift of freely shared love with no inhibition. You may know of a family member or neighbor whose life is devoted to the demanding care of a loved one with special needs.  We are blessed to share and learn from so diverse an expression of the human experience.

Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the mission all of us share during an address to an international conference on the theme “Ephphatha! The hearing-impaired person in the life of the Church,” organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.  He said, “You are not only recipients of the Gospel message but also legitimately heralds of it, by virtue of your Baptism. Thus you live every day as witnesses of the Lord in your living contexts, making Christ and his Gospel known.”

One of the ministries of the archdiocese is directed to those with specific needs so that they can live fully their baptismal vocation. This Saturday, March 2, at the Fifth Annual Faith, Deafness and Disability Conference, we will explore how to care for and nurture the physical, spiritual and social lives of children and adults with a wide variety of special needs. We will learn of best practices in the care of family members and caregivers. We will take up the challenge of a community-based response to caring for our veterans who are suffering physically and emotionally and are best served with the aid of strong community support.

This conference not only brings together outstanding speakers from across the country, but it also gathers fellow Catholics from around the region who want to learn from the experience of this archdiocese.

Those persons who are deaf or disabled are also called to be new evangelizers, revealing to the world not only the enormous love of God, the Father, but inviting people to look at life in a different way. They teach something very important about facing one’s own limitations and pain in the light of our Savior Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI remarked, “Sometimes it is challenging to find a reason for what appears only as a difficulty to be overcome or even pain to be endured. Yet, our faith helps us to break open the horizon beyond our own selves in order to see life as God does. God’s unconditional love, which bathes every human individual, points to meaning and purpose for all human life” (Gathering at Saint Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, New York, April 19, 2008).

Come join us as we look at life with God’s eyes and celebrate the gifts of our Deaf Catholic community and our fellow parishioners with special needs.