Concern for people with disabilities was one of the prominent notes of Jesus’ earthly ministry… Persons with disabilities become witnesses for Christ, His healing of their bodies a sign of the spiritual healing He brought to all people.(Pastoral Statement of US Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities, 1989)
Ministry with persons with disabilities is rooted in the sacred truth that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus’s ministry was marked by care and concern for those with special needs. They responded to his healing ministry and became his disciples.
The Church carries on the ministry of Jesus in its care for our brothers and sisters with disabilities. Religious education for those with special needs has been fostered by parishes and diocesan programs. Our office of Special Religious Education supports parishes in their efforts to bring meaningful and appropriate learning experiences to persons with disabilities, as well as foster awareness of this ministry.
Are you called to be a catechist for children with special needs?
“The parish is the door to participation for persons with disabilities, and it is the responsibility of the pastor and lay leaders to make sure that this door is always open … The task, on occasion, may not be an easy one. Yet in order to be loyal to its calling, to be truly pastoral, the parish must make sure that it does not exclude any Catholic who wishes to take part in its activities.”Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, 1989
These links may help you to learn how the Church understands its mission to persons with disabilities.
- For I am Lonely and Afflicted: the bishops of New York State have published a pastoral letter regarding people who suffer mental illness in February 2014. Along with Recommendations on the care and treatment of persons with mental illness.
- Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities: the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral statement on persons with disabilities (November 1978).
- Opening Doors to Welcome and Justice / Parish Guide: Create a welcoming and accessible parish using the information and suggestions in this resource from the experts at the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.
- Pastoral Statement of US Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities: issued 1978.
- Welcome and Justice: a statement of the US Catholic Bishops on a framework of access and inclusion for persons with disabilities.
- National Catholic Office for the Deaf: helps spread God’s message through the support of the deaf and hard of hearing so that we may all be one in Christ. They offer a quarterly newsletter and have sacramental programs that are signed and closed-captioned.
- National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities: works collaboratively to ensure meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of the Church and society.
- SPRED – Special Religious Development: a network of services designed to assist persons with developmental disabilities and/or learning problems to become integrated into parish assemblies of worship through the process of education in the faith.
- Parish Annual Program Checklist for Disability Ministry: a readiness checklist for disability inclusion in your religious education program.
- Religious Formation for Persons with Special Needs: Catechetical Office guidelines for helping persons with special needs in their religious formation.
- Myth Busters for Special Religious Education: What do you know about special religious education?
- Recognizing the Gift: A Parish Resource Guide for Welcoming Children with Disabilities. En español.
For more information please contact:
Director, Special Religious Education
1011 First Avenue – Room 1250
New York, NY 10022