“As it is, there are many parts, yet one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20). Many of us are very familiar with the scriptures that speak to the unity that we share as members of the Body of Christ. It is through our Baptism we enter the Body of Christ and now have a role in bringing about the Kingdom according to gifts that have been given. The gifts are many, and all are needed. Scripture further tells us that if a member is not present, we are not complete; and their absence will be felt by all.
We also see very vividly throughout the New Testament that Jesus’ life speaks to a reality of making a place for all. His actions bring assurance that everyone will be embraced, gathered in and appreciated for who they are. He tells us that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must follow the example he has set forth. No one, for any reason, is ever to stand outside this circle of love and acceptance.
As the greater Church and our individual parish communities strive to find ways to reach out to all our members, we never forget those individuals with different abilities who may need to do things differently. We are called to make sure that they have access to and full participation in the life of the parish community.
In the summer of 2016, Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate published a report titled: Disabilities in Parishes Across the United States: How Parishes in the United States Accommodate and Serve People with Disabilities. CARA shared the results of a survey sent to all parishes in the U.S., which generated 789 responses. A snapshot was offered of those parishes in regard to their strengths in meeting the needs of those who are disabled and their families, as well as their challenges. It was very interesting to see that the strengths and challenges reflected many of the results found in our own diocesan survey – particularly the need for greater awareness of the unique gifts possessed by all God’s people.
In this monthly column titled, A Place for All, the Committee for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities will share how we may accompany one another as we journey together as One Body in Christ.