What I Have Seen And Heard
Published: February 21, 2008
The Faith and Sharing Mass that St. Jude Parish hosts several times each year predates my service as the Archbishop of Atlanta, but it is an event that I have happily attended for each of the three years that I have been the Archbishop. This celebration always brings together families from throughout the Atlanta area who devotedly care for a member with special needs. Those wonderful people participate as musicians, altar servers, gift bearers, readers and sources of inspiration. There are more festive celebrations that occur in the Archdiocese of Atlanta during the course of the year, but none more inspiring as the proud parents and families who bring their loved ones to a celebration that is planned for them.
We have an Office with Persons with Disabilities, and Ed McCoy is the devoted director of this agency—and what happens on the local level is always so much more important than even he could anticipate or possibly orchestrate. These families represent the diversity of our Archdiocese and most of them over the years have discovered many ways of encouraging and supporting their relatives who have special needs but who also possess special gifts for the life of their families and the Church.
There is a gentleness of spirit and a transparent innocence that these people bring with them to Mass. I am so grateful to Msgr. James Fennessy and to Msgr. David Talley who have taken a personal interest in this pastoral outreach. Both of these fine priests would demur and perhaps deny that they have played such a pivotal role in this ministry, but they and the other folks who work with Ed McCoy and on the parish committees in the Archdiocese of Atlanta remind the Church—and the Archbishop—of the presence and transparent goodness of these people.
Occasionally out of frustration, people send me letters asking that the Archdiocese of Atlanta do more to serve the needs of people with disabilities whether in our schools, religious education programs, or in our parishes. Such letters and communications are very important reminders—even when they might chastise us for not being sensitive enough in our pastoral outreach to those with special needs as well as special gifts.
St. Jude Church has a religious education program for people with disabilities. While it might not be able to address every situation, it is a wonderful example of attempting to respond to the needs of those whom Jesus Himself surely refers to as the least of His sisters and brothers. Please go to our Web site (www.archatl.com) and see what resources are there and how together we can be enriched by the presence and the goodness of those who already enrich the lives of their families in ways that most of us do not often recognize.