Asking the question

By Mary Kaye Falcony

A Place for All

Many years ago, when teaching a Catholic Social Justice class at Reitz Memorial High School, I was on the hunt for articles I could share with my students that might shed some light on the principle of Preferential Option of the Poor. In my search, I came across a very interesting article from Catholic Update entitled “How Should We Think about the Poor? A Bishop Reflects,” written by the late Bishop Kenneth E. Untener of Saginaw, Michigan.

In this article, Bishop Untener shares eight things he learned after issuing a decree on March 26, 1991, lasting until July1,1991, encouraging all meetings held at the parish or diocesan level begin with asking, “How shall what we are doing affect or involve the poor?

As I prepared to write this article, Bishop Untener’s 1991 actions came to mind and seemed very fitting to share. In issuing his decree, he was merely encouraging his communities to think about what needed to be brought to the forefront in order to develop a deeper understanding of the needs of the poor in their community – and to let their new awareness lead them to action.

I suggest that a similar question be posed in our communities regarding those individuals who may live with a disability. How will what we do affect or involve those individuals? Let us seek a deeper understanding, which will bring awareness and ultimately lead us to meaningful changes within our parishes.

The following statistics, made available through National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities, are helpful as we ask this question because they give us a snapshot of who we hope to serve. They tell us that 20% of the people within any parish’s boundaries live with a disabling condition, and one family in three includes someone who has significant limitations. Approximately 58% of those with disabilities have a physical limitation; slightly less than 9% have a sensory disability; around 5% have a cognitive disability involving either things like Down syndrome or mental illness; with the remaining 28% having a serious medical condition. These statistics suggest that a parish with 1000 members needs to give consideration to the special needs of approximately 200 parishioners.

As Lent approaches, this might be a good starting place to begin asking this all-important question – how will this affect or involve our fellow parishioners with disabilities?

What should our parishes think about as we begin to plan for Lenten Missions, Stations of the Cross, Ash Wednesday, Reconciliation, The Triduum and The Easter Vigil?