Our Lord calls upon us to Open Hearts -
“Full participation in the Christian community has another important aspect that must not be overlooked. When we think of people with disabilities in relation to ministry, we tend automatically to think of doing something for them. We do not reflect that they can do something for us and with us….Moreover, they have the same duty as all members of the community to do the Lord’s work in the world, according to their God given talents and capacity.” - United States Catholic Bishops Pastoral Statement on People with Disabilities
Parishes strive for full parish participation through ministry to, with, by and for our brothers and sisters with disabilities. The initial step is to identify an advocate for persons with disabilities in each parish. The Diocesan Disabilities Action team will provide ongoing training, resources and empowerment for the Advocates, The second step in this process was to establish a survey to assess the needs of parishioners with disabilities. Next advocates will establish a Disability Ministry in the parish by recruiting and preparing volunteers to minister to the needs of people with disabilities. Once the support system is in place, we will encourage and assist persons with disabilities to share their God given talents with our parish communities.
Parish Advocate for Persons with Disabilities - A Parish Advocate is the liaison between the Diocesan Disabilities Action Team and people with disabilities within a parish. A parishioner may volunteer for this position, but pastor approval to serve in this role is necessary. A commissioning Mass is celebrated by our Bishop followed by a training event each year in October.
Assess Parishioner Needs - In helping to determine the needs of parishioners with disabilities, the Diocesan Disabilities Action Team has established this survey. It is in Word, so individual parish information may be inserted. This has been distributed in parishes as bulletin inserts, mailed in quarterly parishioner mailings and given to new parishioners at time of registration. The completed surveys are viewed by the advocate and members of the disability ministry to prioritize the needs. A report should be given to the Pastor and/or Parish Council.
Make Disability a Ministry - The parish advocate is well advised to reach out and expand the ministry of the parish by developing the talents of other differently- abled parishioners. The team should include representation of the people being served. This might include a person with a visual impairment, a person with a mobility issue, a person with mental illness, a parent of a child with a disability and a professional in the special education.
Parish Resources (print, organizations, parent, diocesan support)
Parishes with Disability Ministry
Spiritual Companionship with People with Disabilities
CHRONIC ILLNESS - CUSA (www.cusan.org) is an apostolate of the Persons with Chronic Illness and Disabilities. This community of people who are physically disabled or chronically ill support each other through prayers and letters. Through concerns for one another, they forge a special relationship that goes beyond the realms of simple friendship. Their bond is a unity born of a common situation and a common faith forged by the redemptive suffering of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Catholic Deaf Apostolate
The Coping Through Christ self help group will suspend their meetings. This group, which met at St. Joseph University Parish, has been in existence for over two years and has served as a successful transitional group for a number of individuals. All organizations have a life expectancy, and at this point in time the Coping Through Christ group seems to have served its purpose for both those coping with anxiety and depression and for family members and caregivers who have participated as members of this group. If you would like more information about other support groups in the area, or if there is a need in the future to re-establish this support group, please contact Sharon Ward at 716-775-5268.
Welcome and Valued