Bringing Gifts, Beauty and Dignity to Society

photo credit: Catholic Standard

One of my joys is sharing with you and others the many ways that members of our spiritual family are manifesting God’s kingdom in the world.

For example, a regular volunteer for Saint Maria’s Meals program, Maria Teresa Guadalupe McMurtrie continues a special legacy when she serves dinner to the homeless and other poor outside the offices of Catholic Charities. Known for her sunny personality, she is the goddaughter of Saint Mother Teresa and helped bring up the offertory at her Canonization Mass in 2016.  Noting how her godmother “always liked to help and serve people,” Maria has taken that as her inheritance, joyously serving as well in her parish office and as an assistant at Our Lady of Mercy School.

Maria’s story, like that of many other persons with Down syndrome, is worth celebrating as we observe World Down Syndrome Day today.  As valued missionary disciples bearing witness to a culture of inclusion, they enrich society daily with the gifts they share in churches and schools, neighborhoods and workplaces, and in their friendships and in walking together with others in our common journey through life.

All of creation and each one of us is a reflection of the glory of God. By his life and love, Jesus teaches us that we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters to each other. This is a truth that our country and culture need to hear – and which people with Down syndrome illustrate with their lives – as too often they are subjected instead to the prejudices of the “throwaway culture” that places little value on the lives of many.

Thus, stories of inclusion that recognize the inherent dignity of all people are good news indeed.  For instance, it is heartening to see various companies selecting persons with Down syndrome for their ads, television shows depicting them pursuing their dreams in their daily lives, and YouTube videos where they are their own best advocates, refusing to accept the limitations that society might impose on them.

Locally, those stories include Meghan Jones, a lector and altar server at her parish who offered the second reading at the 2015 papal Mass here; Karlena Somerville, a kindergartener who simply shined with love in welcoming Pope Francis; Theresa Brogan, a senior at the Academy of the Holy Cross who serves in peer ministry to help other students grow in their faith; and many more who each day share God’s love, and by their lives testify to how each of us is a masterpiece of his creation.

“Belonging starts here.” This refrain of our archdiocesan Department of Special Needs Ministries points out that the culture of inclusion starts with us.  Walking together in solidarity, step-by-step we pray to God it will become a completed reality.