Effort to welcome persons with disabilities underway across diocese
By Kay Cozad
In the wake of Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ visit to Philadelphia in September, during which he celebrated a Mass for the Disabled, Deaf and Caregivers at St. Peter the Apostle Parish with the Shrine of St. John Neumann as a part of the World Meeting of Families, the Office of Evangelization in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend continues its efforts to assist parishes in better serving those with varying abilities.
Mary Glowaski, director of the Office of Evangelization, said in a recent interview that serving Catholics with special needs must begin at the parish level. “Our goal is to get most parishes involved in inspiring the people in the pews to invite those they know who are challenged with disabilities to come to our parishes,” she said, adding, “Many are on the periphery. They don’t have a voice. They don’t have a face.”
Though there may be an element of fear at the parish level about whether it has what it takes to serve those with disabilities, Glowaski said, God is in charge and has given His people all they need. “We want to inspire pastors and pastoral staff and their people to focus on what is possible and trust God instead of looking at why it can’t be done,” she says.
The Office of Evangelization has received calls from directors of religious education and from parents of children with disabilities who seek assistance with preparing children with special needs for the reception of the sacraments. “The people in the middle of the spectrum are left out. It has to be at the parish level,” reiterated Glowaski.
Following a meet-and-greet opportunity in April in Fort Wayne and South Bend for anyone with a disability or others interested in assisting in the effort, a grassroots group has emerged in Fort Wayne. The group, Building Inclusive Parishes, meets at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Fort Wayne twice each month and is comprised primarily of family members of those with disabilities. The group is compiling a list of needs, expectations and gifts that they and their disabled family members can bring to the Church.
Their mission statement reads: “Through prayer, support, advocacy and catechesis, we strive to be inclusive of all individuals with disabilities or special needs and help them know that they are welcomed, accepted and necessary in contributing their gifts to parish life.”
Others from the South Bend area have new initiatives in mind that will be forthcoming.