Catholic Disability Teachings ©
Originally a doctorate degree project, Catholic Disability Teachings© now serves as an online resource to promote the integration of persons with disabilities into the complete life of the Church.
“… I invite each one of you to work ever harder at the integration of persons with disabilities into society, into the world of work and into the Christian community, as I remind you that every human life deserves respect and must be protected from its conception to its natural end. I assure my support and my prayers to all those who are already dedicated to this immense task.”—Pope Benedict XVI, St. Peter’s Square, December 4, 2005
In 2006, Dennis McNulty, former director of Disability Services, authored a project for a doctorate of ministry degree entitled, A Different Journey, Internet Ministry to Persons with Disabilities ©. The project investigated the use of a website as a ministerial tool to assist with the integration of persons with disabilities into the complete life of the Church.
Dennis created the website to prove the theory that the internet can be a useful ministerial tool. While it may seem like it now, in 2006 this was a new idea.
The original website pages were dedicated to Nathan Patrick McNulty, the son of Dennis and Jill. The name "Nathan" means "gift from God," and Nate was truly God's gift. Nate was born with many challenges both mentally and physically, but as he grew he was an incredible miracle. He overcame every challenge and defied the labels and limitations that others imposed. He was truly inspirational.
Nate died in 2000. Wanting to do something for persons with disabilities, Dennis & Jill created this webpage.
Church Teachings & Statements
From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops:
Practical & Pastoral Suggestions
The following suggestions include documents that expand further on each topic. All documents are available for download at the bottom of this page.
- Ministry Responsibilities
Religious leaders have a unique responsibility to minister to all and to assist all people in their faith development. These general suggestions are an approach to ministering to person with disabilities. The individual faith community may develop approaches that reflect the uniqueness of their congregation.
- Moving from Inviting to Integration
Many believe that inclusion is the goal that churches should be achieving. This piece challenges that theory and urges us to consider integration as the goal. The U.S. Bishops’ Statement on Disabilities (1978) used the word "integrate" before the word "inclusion" became the norm.
- Parish Advocacy Programs
Many parishes have created a role for a person or a group to serve as a parish advocate. The parish advocate is very unique to the parish's ministry so the program can vary from place to place. There are many parishes that have adopted such a program in the Diocese of Cleveland. This is a general outline for creating such a parish ministry.
- Pastor's Tip Sheet: Welcoming People with Disabilities
This is a very practical one-page sheet of facts and appropriate pastoral responses for welcoming persons with disabilities. There are also suggestions for a director of religious education to be more welcoming and how to make liturgies more meaningful. Adapted from the National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (NAfIM).
- People-First Language Tip Sheet
Responsible communicators choose language that reflects the dignity of people with disabilities—words that put the person first, rather than the disability. This document features short tips on using language that empowers. Produced by Ohio Public Images/Public Images Network.
- Special Needs Resource Directory: Embracing Children with Special Needs in our Catholic Schools and Parish Religious Education Programs
From the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, this document serves as a resource and idea book. There are many practical suggestions for assisting with the faith formation of children with cognitive or other developmental disabilities.
- Guiding Principles & Strategies for Inclusion in the Liturgy of Catholics with Disabilities
These guiding principles are provided for pastors, liturgists, parish advocates, liturgy planners, designers, architects, and all those who have a concern for the design of the worship space and the planning of liturgical celebrations. They are provided for the purpose of assuring that all members of the worshiping community are able to participate fully in the worship life of their parishes and also to ensure that all who are appropriately qualified can fully participate in the various liturgical ministries. This material was published in 2005 by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, Liturgical Arts and Music Committee.
Prayers & Essays
The following prayers and essays are available for download as one document at the bottom of this page.
- Beatitudes for Persons with Special Needs
Since 1987, the Office of Disability Services & Ministries of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland has used this prayer to begin its meetings. It is prayed with persons with disabilities to remind us of our commonality and our God-given differences that enliven the church with a diversity of ministries and possibilities.
- The Any Way Prayer
Being a caregiver or an advocate can be difficult & often frustrating. At those times it’s always good to stop to consider why we do what we do.
- The 10 Commandments of Creating Community
This simple 10-point list encourages people to move away from categories and move more and more into their community.
- Welcome to Holland
What is it like to have a child with disabilities born into your family? There is a loss of certain hopes and dreams but also the possibilities of new dreams if one can see past the lost hopes. This piece reminds us to not spend a lifetime mourning what might have been but to look at a loss as an opportunity for discovering something very different, but perhaps also equally or more, wonderful.
- Some Mothers Get Babies With Something More
This essay expresses what an expectant mother's wishes. It is a nice meditation on the blessing of receiving a gift you didn’t quite expect.