Office of Special Needs Ministry
Special Needs Ministry
“The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ – not to mention fake – people live there but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase. . . . Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face—at times painfully—frailty and illness, both our own and those of others.”
- Pope Francis, Mass for the Jubilee of the Sick and Persons with Disabilities
When we think of persons with disabilities in relation to ministries, we tend automatically to think of doing something for them. We do not reflect that they can do something for us and with us. . . they have the same duty as all members of the community to do the Lord's work in the world, according to their God given talents and capacities.
-Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, no.17, NOD, 2001
It is a blessing to be in the Archdiocese of Kansas City! My wife, Becki, and I moved to Overland Park from Wichita on September 30th. We are originally from Missouri but moved to Wichita in 1974 to teach children with disabilities. We thought we would stay a year or two and then move to the Kansas City area where we both have family. That was 42 years ago! During those years, we raised three daughters. They are married and we have four terrific grandsons!
I retired from the Wichita Public School district in 2010. My last position was as the director of special education programs for children with cognitive disabilities, autism and severe multiple disabilities. I taught at Wichita State University as an adjunct lecturer in special education for twenty-three years. I served on the Board of Directors for the Arc of Sedgwick County and the Sedgwick County Developmental Disabilities Advisory Board.
While I was ready to retire from public education, I wasn’t ready to quit working. I accepted the position of director of the ministry with persons with disabilities for the Diocese of Wichita! God is so good! I had always considered my work in the public schools an apostolate. I could now bring my knowledge and experience to help build the Kingdom of God in a more dynamic way! During my tenure in the Wichita diocese, I served on the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. I learned so much from this amazing group of leaders from around the country!
I decided in late 2015 that I would retire in 2016. Becki and I were planning our move. Then, I got a call from a member of the Task Force that was charged with considering the establishment of a special needs ministry in the Archdiocese. Further conversations with Fr. Gary Pennings led to the offer to become lead consultant for this new ministry. I discerned that God, indeed, had another plan for me. So, here I am.
That all means all…
Because “The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny.” (Gaudium et Spes para. 10) the Office for Special Needs strives to empower and equip parishes to encounter its members who have a disability so that they may be sanctified by the Church and in turn the Church may be sanctified by them.
- All life is sacred and precious
- All of us deserve to be treated with the fullest measure of dignity and respect
- All of us have gifts that we are called to share with each other
Special Needs Ministry is under construction and we want your help in building a Church that is accessible to all.
The work of the ministry will be grounded in the vision of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops as expressed in the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities  and reaffirmed in Welcome and Justice  See www.ncpd.org. Under the guidance of the Archbishop, the ministry will align its goals and objectives with the five year pastoral priorities of the (conversion, evangelization, all forms of Catholic education, outreach to those in need and stewardship) and the three key initiatives through 2017 (building a culture of evangelization, strengthening the vocation of marriage and family life, and cultivating relationships by engaging in corporal and spiritual works of mercy).
In general, the mission of the Special Needs Ministry is to help each parish insure the fullest participation possible for all parishioners in the life of the parish regardless of type, severity or age of onset of a disability.
The Special Needs Ministry works to provide the following:
- Awareness information and/or workshops on types of disability and how a parish family can respond to needs
- Assistance with the development and implementation of outreach and support systems for people with disabilities, their families and caregivers
- Resources, curriculum and training for parents, catechists, and volunteers to provide sacramental preparation, on-going faith formation, participation in liturgies, and participation in the social life of the church
- Practical information and education for persons with disabilities, their families and caregivers regarding available community services and supports
- Accessibility assessments of the parish campus