Faith, Deafness and Disability Conference
Regular readers of this blog know that on Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014, the Archdiocese of Washington held its First Archdiocesan Synod. On that day we published the statutes and recommendations from the Synod that will carry forward the work of the Church of Washington into the future.
The recommendations relate to five core areas of church life: worship, education, community, service and administration. Over and above these are a set of seven recommendations that are to be implemented across all five focus areas. Recommendation Five for all areas of our local Church proposes that “the Archdiocese and parishes identify, seek out and minister to those not fully involved in the life and mission of the Church, and that efforts be undertaken to ensure the meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of the Church.”
As part of the on-going implementation of this recommendation, the archdiocese will sponsor its Conference on Faith, Deafness and Disabilities on Saturday, March 14th. The conference takes its vision from the National Directory of Catechesis which states, “Persons with disabilities…are integral members of the Christian community. All persons with disabilities have the capacity to proclaim the Gospel and to be living witnesses to its truth within the community of faith and offer valuable gifts. Their involvement enriches every aspect of Church life. They are not just the recipients of catechesis—they are also its agents” (NDC, 4).
The focus of this conference is this two-fold theme: 1) making resources available for all people to grow in faith, and 2) teaching families and parish leaders how persons with special needs can be prepared for full and active participation in the sacramental life of the Church and parish-based ministries.
Of special note this year is the day’s Special Education Summit which will address innovative strategies for inclusion of children with special needs in our Catholic schools and in our parish religious education programs. Picking up on the theme of persons with disabilities as agents of the New Evangelization, another area of focus is a new program that places adults with disabilities in classrooms and administrative offices as aides, coordinators of classroom activities and leaders of prayer.
There is an increasing sense of urgency in making known the Church’s unequivocal commitment to the protection and promotion of human life. In the face of studies showing that 90 percent of all pregnancies where the unborn child is given a diagnosis of Down Syndrome end in abortion, it is critical that we redouble our efforts to let young couples and families know that a community exists who will welcome their child and assist in helping them thrive at every stage of life.
Over and over again, we hear that couples faced with an unexpected diagnosis feel alone and without support. We are working to make known how welcoming our Church – individual parishes as well as the archdiocesan administration – is to persons with special needs and to connect families to a network of support and resources to assist them in caring for their children and loved ones.
If you know someone who might benefit from learning more about our growing community of persons with special needs, please share with them news of this conference on Saturday, March 14, and all that our family of faith offers to our sisters and brothers with special needs.