Special Needs Ministry
As persons with disabilities share their gifts and needs, they bring out the best in our mutual humanity. They challenge us to live the Gospel precepts of charity in the real world, to sacrifice some of our comfort for others, to take the time to enable them to be full members of society. They need to feel our solidarity with them, and to know their true dignity and worth as fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. Our own future with Christ depends on it.
The Church recognizes that every parish community includes members with disabilities, and earnestly desires their active participation. All members of the Body of Christ are uniquely called by God by virtue of their Baptism. In light of this call, the Church seeks to support all in their growth in holiness, and to encourage all in their vocations. Participating in, and being nourished by, the grace of the sacraments is essential to this growth in holiness. Catholic adults and children with disabilities, and their families, earnestly desire full and meaningful participation in the sacramental life of the Church.
The patroness of our special needs ministry in theDiocese of Tyler is Blessed Margaret of Castello. She was born around the late 1280s, a dwarf, blind, crippled and with a hunched back. Because of her disabilities she was isolated from society by her parents and eventually abandoned by them.
Begging for food became her way of life until eventually finding refuge with an order of Dominican nuns where she later became a third-order Dominican. She had a strong devotion to God and to following His Divine Will. It was written that she possessed extraordinary cheerfulness. She took a mission to care for the sick and dying of the city and to minister to the prisoners at the local jail. She recognized the dignity of all human persons and practiced heroic charity.
Since her death on April 13, 1320 at the age of 33, more than 200 miracles have been credited to her intercession. She was beatified in 1609. Despite her disabilities, Blessed Margaret of Castello became a witness to the dignity of all people, an example of complete trust in God and a life of charity.
“Care for those among us with special needs is part of our Catholic commitment to the Sanctity of Human Life. People with special needs are our Catholic brothers and sisters, beloved of God. Families who love and support members with special needs need our support, they are heroically living out that call to love one another which comes from Jesus Christ. Let us pray for all of these families, and the tremendous witness to they offer to the world concerning the dignity and value of every single human person.”
– Bishop Joseph Strickland
- Show compassion and understanding for those who struggle with disabilities.
- Include those with disabilities and their families more into the life of the Church.
- Establish specific areas in the diocese where people with disabilities can serve the Lord and others.
- Instruct these individuals in their duty towards God and help them grow in devotion.
- Work with families, pastors and DREs concerning preparation and celebration of the sacraments for individuals with special needs.
- Bring together families of this community for spiritual formation, and educational and social gatherings.
“The richness of a person with disability is a constant challenge to the Church and society to open to the mystery such persons present.The person with disabilities has rights and duties like every other individual. Disability is not a punishment, it is a place where normality and stereotypes are challenged and the Church and society are moved to search for that crucial point at which the human person is fully himself.” – Vatican Preparatory Committee for the Jubilee
Links and Resources
- USCCB Pastoral Statement on Persons with Disabilities
- National Catholic Partnership on Disability
- USCCB Guideline for Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities
- Xavier Society for the Blind
- Marriage and the Special Needs Child
- Catholic Education Resource Center
- Hope for Families with a Child with Autism
- National Catholic Office for the Deaf
- Loyola Press