A global conference in Rome looked at best practices for helping people with disabilities to fully engage in the life of the Church – and demonstrated that those with disabilities are as much a part of the Church as those without.
The event, titled 'Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church', was a thorough attempt to provide an opportunity for people from around the world to really listen and learn from people with a disability and to know what their needs in the Church are.
The conference gathered over 420 experts in the magnificent setting of the Vatican – and, in the words of Monsignor Geno Sylva from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, proved 'a beautiful experience'.
There was so much hope for the future of the Church's mission to fully support the catechetical formation of people with a disability – in other words, to be totally inclusive. The abundance of senior clergy, eminent speakers and invaluable insights underlined the seriousness of the conference's intention to respect, with dignity, all people with a disability.
Sponsored by the Pontifical Council and partnered by The Kairos Forum, the conference challenged everyone to think about how best to enable people with disabilities to receive catechetical formation in a way that can transform lives and deepen relationships with God. Held at the Pontifical Urban University between 20 and 22 October, it was particularly timely for representatives from Nugent Care, following on from the Living Fully Day at LACE in September which Nugent had helped the Archdiocese to organise.
The talks, covering the academic, the practical and the personal, were inspirational – notably the example of the French order of contemplative nuns that consists of religious sisters both with and without Down's syndrome. Colourful resources were also exhibited for sharing with catechists responsible for parish sacramental programmes.
Deaf and disabled people were prominent throughout, leading the conference in prayer, in different languages and with dance, music and colourful visuals. This had the effect of reiterating Professor Miguel Romero's statement about his disabled brother: 'There is no them and us.'
Considering that the conference was being held in response to Pope Francis's Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in 2015–16, it was a blessing that the Pope met every single delegate, with the Pontiff confirming his love and approval for everyone's work in this area.
Nugent has worked alongside children and adults with disabilities for more than 40 years. This work includes helping children with learning disabilities to receive the Sacraments and, on the first Sunday of each month, supporting the Mass for deaf people at Christ the King, Childwall. For more information, contact Mary Beatham, Sister Eleanor or Denise Armstrong Hart at Nugent.