If you are one of many people who enjoy a Reese’s peanut butter cup on occasion, then you will agree that uniting peanut butter and chocolate was serendipity! I light-heartedly compare the fact that I was once invited to catechize a boy who had Down syndrome at my parish because I had a special education degree...I was also a cradle Catholic. We know it was much more than a mere happy accident that brought those two parts of my life together decades ago. God’s plan is always in motion as our lives unfold ever so uniquely according to his design. My volunteer catechist role led to my being responsible for the disability ministry in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for over twenty years. Then once again surprisingly, though gratefully, I was selected to lead NCPD. Within thirty days of accepting the offer, my office and home were packed, and my husband and I spent last Thanksgiving relocating across country. Fortunately, we sold and bought both our homes two weeks before the pandemic struck. Today, December 1, marks my first anniversary with NCPD.
To say this year has been a whirlwind would be an understatement. I see it as all wind from the Holy Spirit! So many changes, challenges, losses, and unrest in our world. New and unusual dictums from masks to social distancing persist. Yet, in these turbulent times, creativity and persistence prevail. Some highlights noted below signify how much ‘good news’ was accomplished amid 2020 by NCPD:
- Virtual USCCB Regional Meetings hosted every other Wednesday from Apr 22–Oct 21, 2020.
- Results: 67 (arch)dioceses represented; 94 ministry leaders participated
- Created a Mass streaming tutorial video to assist parish outreach
- Webinars began being offered monthly since May, in English and since October, in Spanish
- Co-hosted a virtual talk: Accompanying Each Member of the Body of Christ in a Time of Crisis by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., with The Institute for Human Ecology from the Catholic University of America - Mission Committee
- Speaking of Disability: Pastoral Guidelines on Language* created - Mission Committee
- Educators Guide to Inclusive Lenten Activities* created - Education Committee
- Developed and continue maintaining a running list of COVID-19 resources that address a wide spectrum of topics relevant to disability (e.g., online faith formation, Masses; Masses with ASL interpreters; prayers; caregiver support; autism; mental health; original Litany to Our Lady for mental health support)
- Council on Mental Illness (CMI) presented to USCCBs’ Domestic Justice and Human Development Committee
- Mental Health Literacy Guide* created (CMI)
- Webinar series on Suicide offered monthly, since September (CMI)
- Statements issued to address Racism* and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Medical Treatment during the Covid-19 Pandemic* - Ethics and Public Policy Committee
- Adapted Faith Formation Activities* provided monthly since May - Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (CIDD)
- Distributed nearly 5,000 FREE Spanish USCCB Guidelines for the Celebrations of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities thanks to Our Sunday Visitor
- Awarded the 7th annual Loyola Press Award to Sr. Alexander Parish in Portland Oregon
- LAMB Inclusive Participation Assessment Tool created* (CIDD)
- NCPD Live on Facebook: interviews offered monthly since June, in English, and beginning in December, in Spanish
- Webpage in Spanish launched, and all social media platforms made available in Spanish
- Virtual presentations were offered at several national and (arch)diocesan conferences, in English and Spanish
- Co-hosted a virtual retreat: Spiritual Refreshment for Caregivers in the Holiday Season led by author Maureen Pratt with the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS
- Social media followers dramatically increased across all platforms
- All online content offered included professional CART, captioning or ASL interpreters, and was provided at no cost, and often made available in both English and Spanish, as are print materials noted above by an asterisk
It is clear to see that neither Covid 19 nor working remotely slowed us down. Individuals serving on our boards, councils and committees bring a wealth of wisdom to NCPD, most especially, Archbishop Kurtz, our Episcopal Moderator. In addition, we have an extremely dedicated staff: Bob Quinlan, Esther Garcia, and Julia Gilberto. They are each a major force behind the increased professional offerings, activities, resources, etc., being provided by NCPD.
With gratitude for what has happened, we turn our sights now to envisioning future initiatives. As needs increase so must our responses increase. Covid has shined a light on ways technology can be a lifegiving and long-lasting remedy for persons with disabilities, and their families, who often experience isolation. Gaining access to information, caregiver retreats, family activities, and most importantly, Mass, to name a few has become exponentially easier. NCPD plans to continue increasing our online presence with relevant and quality training and resources. It will require dedication and monetary means to do so. A single webinar can cost over $2,000 when calculating necessary technology platforms, translators, second language captioning, staff time, etc. Beyond continuing current initiatives, we are looking forward to hosting a virtual gala, an in-person/virtual conference(s), and other online formational training opportunities. As we increase our activity our expenses will also increase. We are looking forward with great hope to making a bigger difference in 2021 with your help.
Today, on Giving Tuesday, and throughout this season of giving, please consider supporting the mission of NCPD - to ensure meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of the Church and society. You can do so online here or via our address below. As Deacon Jim Hoegemeier, Associate Director, Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities, Diocese of Madison, said to me, “It’s an investment, not a donation.” Our sincere thanks to all who invest in NCPD by financial contributions, and by sharing our information and holding NCPD in prayer. We can do so much together - with God and you!
As we wait in Advent hope for the Word Made Flesh to arrive, we remain grateful that God is always waiting for us. May every circumstance we experience deepen our intimacy with the Lord and with one another.