Disabilities in Parish Life: An Overview (SN 1)Course Level: Basic

Course Summary

Disabilities in Parish Life: An Overview (hereafter, Disabilities: An Overview) seeks to provide participants with a basic understanding of the perspectives of people with disabilities and their family and friends, relevant issues of concern, and ways in which participants can create accessible parish and diocesan environments. It includes information on the less-than-obvious aspects of disability ministry not always apparent to the casual observer, such as stigma, grief, poverty, attitudes, family dynamics, and culture.

The Disabilities: An Overview course is designed for diocesan personnel as well as pastors and associates, deacons, seminarians, catechetical leaders and catechists, parish nurses, members of the liturgy or social justice committee, teachers, family members, and parish council members…all those whose ministries impact Catholics with disabilities. It is important for these church leaders and the total body of Christ to gain an understanding that:

  1. One in five persons in the every parish across the world has a definable disability. When family members are included this comes to a sizeable if silent part of most parishes.
  2. Disability is not always obvious. It is important for parish leadership to understand the need, and to reach out. Simple accommodations can yield great results.
  3. The life and dignity of every person is an integral part of Church teaching. Learning effective ways of including people with disabilities in the life of the Church affirms this truth.

Please note the required resource Opening Doors of Welcome and Justice to Parishioners the Disabilities: A Parish Guide is available from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' website: http://www.usccbpublishing.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=443

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

Course Materials

  • Required Book: David Rizzo Faith, Family and Children With Special Needs Loyola Press (April 1, 2012)
  • Optional Book: National Catholic Partnership on Disability Opening Doors of Welcome and Justice to Parishioners with Disabilities USCCB ISBN: 978-1-57455-604-9

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: Meet the Community
    • Articulate the Church’s understanding of people with disabilities as expressed in the Pastoral Statements on disability;
    • Demonstrate an in depth understanding of the term ‘disability’;
    • Acknowledge the use of “person-first” language by applying a broader appreciation of the Church’s attitude toward people with disabilities.
  • Week 2: Issues and Concerns
    • Discuss the obstacles faced by people with disabilities that are often not readily apparent, and are often caused by the attitudes and misconceptions of others
    • Articulate how the needs of persons with disabilities and their families change over a lifetime as should the outreach from their parish
  • Week 3: Access to Parish Buildings
    • Differentiate the use of the terms disability and "handicap"
    • Discuss the importance of parishes taking proactive steps to assure access for all
    • Express various attitudinal barriers faced by people with disabilities
  • Week 4: Access to Liturgy and Parish Life
    • Articulate ways a parish can become welcoming and affirming
    • Express various ways in which parishioners with disabilities can meaningfully engage in parish life
    • Discuss specific barriers that might hinder participation in Liturgy and ministry
  • Week 5: Transforming the Heart of the Parish & Voices of Faith
    • Articulate an understanding of how a parish can respond in grace
    • Examine their attitudes and ability through leadership to help change perceptions of people with disabilities
    • Express various ways in which to actively work to transform their parish or ministry site