Waking up to the gifts of people with disabilities

  A message from Rosemary McCloskey, director, St Joseph's Pastoral Centre The Jubilee year has seen many groups come together to celebrate. Only last weekend it was young people all over the world. Hopefully, people with disabilities, both adults and children, have been able to participate and have found their rightful place in all these groupings. However, the Vatican has issued several pages of catechesis for a particular day, 3 December, for all people with disabilities to join the Jubilee celebrations around the world. In Westminster Diocese we have chosen the afternoon of 2 December to meet at Westminster Cathedral and to celebrate Mass. Archbishop Cormac will be the chief concelebrant and every effort has been made to ensure access for all and, so far as possible, for the Mass to be totally inclusive; the shared gifts of all people together will be celebrated. The Archbishop himself says: "People with disabilities must be empowered to make their own choices, and discover and use their gifts for the good of the church as a whole. This means participating fully in the life of the church and ministering to others." Information about the Jubilee Mass was initially circulated through St Joseph's Pastoral Centre Newsletter which reaches several other dioceses as well as having an overseas readership. Consequently word has it that groups of people are coming from many other dioceses. The theme of the weekend is that of waiting and keeping awake as it is unfolded in the Advent liturgy for the first Sunday of Advent. Too often in the past our church has not been awake when it should have been, to the gifts that people with disabilities bring and have to offer their local parishes, as well as the wider church. Too often people have been the victims of rejection and have not been given the opportunities offered to others. Let us hope that the document Valuing Difference which has been a guiding light for this liturgy will be something that will influence local parish life to a greater extent in 2001. Although there are still stories of injustice many more people with disabilities are now able to participate in church life and those with learning difficulties at the Mass on Saturday will include people who regularly serve on the altar, are Eucharistic Ministers, collectors, singers, musicians or welcomers in their own parishes. What we are looking for is further participation and the bottom line is access for all. No school or parish should wait until people with disabilities arrive before they consider their access. Get ahead of the legislation this year and see justice done! One of our readers on Saturday who has a physical disability successfully attends her local RC primary school - her aspiration is to be a teacher later on. How is it that 13 secondary schools have said they can't accept her, the moment her wheelchair is mentioned? That's how it is at the end of the year 2000. That's the good news and the bad news.

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