Identifying and Working with Advisors

 

 Identifying and Working with Advisors

 

Advisors greatly assist the diocesan director (hereafter referred to as director) or other personnel in developing and carrying out the goals and objectives of this ministry. Often voluntary advisory committees or commissions are established to provide advice and counsel (in one diocese, the advisory body is known as a coalition). It is important to remember that all of the activities of such bodies must function harmoniously within the diocesan structure and be responsive to the goals and mission of the Ordinary.

Current practice regarding these consultative bodies varies among dioceses, with some utilizing both an advisory committee and a commission, others working only with an advisory committee, another working with committees assisting only on specific projects or missions, and still other directors currently working without a formal advisory structure. Other successful programs have only one advisory body composed of representatives of various disability groups and diocesan leadership. The size and complexity of the diocesan structure will influence the choices that are made. In some dioceses with limited staff and resources, this ministry is successfully carried out through such committees or commissions (see section A.2 of this chapter, Models 1 and 2 for a detailed description of this ministry structure).

NCPD offers the following two-fold advisory structure as a method for directors to expand their knowledge base and influence policy within the diocese. This successful model can be imitated or modified as needed.

One large urban diocesan program has successfully utilized two consultative bodies:

·An advisory committee, composed of people with disabilities and family members, offers counsel to the diocesan director and other personnel. Appointments to the advisory committee are made by the director.

·An advisory commission, composed of selected representatives from various diocesan offices, which may include, but are not limited to, Family Life, Vocations, Faith Formation, Schools, Buildings and Grounds, and other appropriate persons identified by the director, more directly impacts other diocesan programs and policy not traditionally associated with disability. In some dioceses, members of religious communities and other Catholic entities also serve on a commission. The Ordinary or his designee appoints the members of the advisory commission and the chairperson, who is not necessarily the director of the disabilities office. Often the director identifies for the Ordinary potential members of the advisory commission.

Increasingly, people with disabilities are speaking for themselves, as has been a tradition for all other groups moving from segregated environments into the mainstream of their communities and their churches. It is essential to be responsive to that evolving expectation in developing an advisory committee, seeking out those individuals with disabilities who can represent concerns and needs while working collaboratively and lovingly within the structure of our faith. Members of the advisory committee should be hand-selected by the director to ensure that the broad spectrum of disability is represented. Through their personal experience of disability, advisory committee members offer to the director observations and recommendations on a number of issues affecting the involvement of Catholics with disabilities in their parish communities. Committee members likewise may assist the director in promoting access and welcome. The director considers the issues identified by the advisory committee within the context of the mission of the diocesan office, handling some with the help of the advisory committee and bringing others which are more broad in scope to the attention of the advisory commission.

The advisory commission addresses issues of import at the diocesan level, offering recommendations to the Ordinary on an annual or semi-annual basis. Commission members, representing a variety of offices within the diocese, consider the ways in which access issues affect the programs and practices of their own offices. They then offer recommendations for welcoming and including Catholics with disabilities in all areas of a life of Faith. Such utilization of church authorities affords the director greater leverage to impact upon the total structure of the decision-making processes of the diocese.

Whether establishing and working with an advisory committee or commission, a plan composed of the following elements should be in writing:

·purpose of the group;

·membership provisions;

·conduct of meetings;

·duties of members; and

·responsibilities of members.

These may take the form of a statement, guidelines, or by‑laws.

Purpose

Advisory Committee. The purpose of an Advisory Committee on Ministry with Persons with Disabil­ities is to educate the director or other staff person(s), on the reality of living with a disability and to provide counsel relating to issues of concern to people with disabilities. In the absence of pastoral workers or staff, the committee may serve as a consul­tative body to the bishop and pastors regarding persons with disabili­ties.

Advisory Commission. An advisory commission is established to interject the concerns of people with disabilities into the policies and programs of a diocese, particularly those which are not traditionally considered in the context of disability.

Membership Provisions

Whether establishing an advisory committee or commission, the following provisions of membership should be determined:

·size of committee/commission;

·length of term of office;

·nomination and selection process; and

·election/appointment of officers.

Conduct of Meetings

The following factors should be determined when planning meetings of advisory committees or commissions:

·schedule—dates and times;

·location (must be barrier‑free);

·accessibility needs (brailling, large print, interpreter);

·adequate notice of meetings—when to mail the information; and

·quorum—what number of members will constitute a quorum.

Duties

Advisory Committee. Specific duties of advisory committee members might include the following as initiated and supervised by the director:

·Serve as a resource for parishes and diocesan agencies on matters concerning persons with disabilities.

·Assist persons with disabilities and their families as needed.

·Conduct advocacy and education awareness projects.

·Assist in training of parish advocates. 

·Conduct accessibility survey and census of local parishes.

·Carry out other duties the Bishop and/or director may assign.

Advisory Commission. Specific duties of advisory commission members might include the following as initiated and supervised by the Ordinary or commission chairperson:

·Strategize on and implement recommendations regarding ministry with people with disabilities, approved by the Bishop for action at the parish and diocesan levels.

·Infuse a disability perspective into the goals and missions of the member's individual constituency or office.

·Facilitate education and communication on a disability perspective at various levels of the diocesan structure.

Responsibilities

Upon acceptance to serve as a committee or commission member, the member is responsible for the following actions:

·attend scheduled meetings;

·participate in working committees as assigned;

·represent the interests of persons within their geographic

       location or constituencies; and

·serve for a specified term of office.

 

 

This resource may be reprinted provided you credit the source:
                    Opening Doors, National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities