Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is appropriate that we observe and celebrate the International Day of People with Disability as we prepare during the Advent season for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church has taken this day as an opportunity to encourage a truly pastoral view that embraces our total community as the living Body of Christ. The day is observed annually on 3rd December and coincides with the beginning of Advent.
According to the 2011 National Church Life survey figures there are 267,711 Catholics with disability in Australia. People with disability face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society, including our parish communities. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to our faith communities on an equal basis with others. It is important that people with hidden disability are included in all aspects of our faith communities. The International Day can be used to draw attention on the situation of persons with invisible disabilities, such as mental health and psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities, as well as hearing impairments.
Parish communities need every person to be part of the worshipping body. A Parish is not complete or whole unless it includes, nurtures, and rejoices in each of its members. Parishes are called to be communities that gladly and authentically welcome people with disability and their families to life of the Church.
Many parishes have taken the challenge and call to be more inclusive communities. These parishes have discovered the beauty and strength of the truth of actively belonging to the Body of Christ.
There is still much more we can do, as the Body of Christ, to promote the value of people with disability. We, as Church, need to actively invite and welcome all; for when we include everybody in the Body of Christ, we will then be truly one.
Thank you again for your support in this most important endeavour.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Terence J Brady,
Delegate for Disability Issues, Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life