The International Day of People with Disability is celebrated on 3 December each year. The 2013 theme is: “Break barriers and open doors: to realise an inclusive society for all!”
Bishop Terence Brady, the Australian Bishops Delegate for Disability Issues, said that our society is emerging from a long era when most people with disability had been excluded and forced to live separately from others.
“This type of exclusion meant that people were only known in those settings and it led to communities being developed without the participation of people with disability.”
“What is best is that communities engage all members in the giving, the receiving and the building up of a community. This is liberating”, he said.
Michele Castagna OAM, Chair of the Australian Catholic Disability Council, said that people with disability within our parish communities say that the old belief of them being the ‘weak’ members of the community or the ‘suffering ones’ does not acknowledge their abilities and desire to participate.
“Their strength is diminished when they are not affirmed as equal. Barriers can be liberated by discussion, learning and genuine relationships.”
“The Church has taken this day as an opportunity to encourage a truly pastoral view that embraces our total community as the living Body of Christ. The day is observed annually and coincides with the beginning of Advent.”
A spirit of Christian hospitality urges parishes to invite people with disability to participate as fully as they wish. It demands a willingness to change or adapt whatever is necessary to ensure that all feel welcome and that each person can live up to their own hopes and expectations.
Disability Projects Officer for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Patricia Mowbray OAM, says that faith communities through Baptism must include all members.
“We all have a gift to share in service of the Body of Christ, and the Body is only “whole” when all of its members have a part to play.”
A newly developed resource page is available at catholic.org.au/disability. Resources include liturgy notes and tips for celebrating International Day, prayer cards, as well as three videos that can be used as prayer reflections.
For media enquiries or to arrange an interview with Patricia Mowbray, please contact Beth Doherty on 0407 081 256.