The Catholic Herald
Nov 8, 2022
Nancy Emanuel was teaching a catechetics class to children with intellectual disabilities. She practiced the Sign of the Cross with them and receiving Communion with unconsecrated hosts. When the big day came, their first Communion, one little girl accepted the Eucharist and went to place it in her mouth. She stopped, pulled it out and looked at it. Later Emanuel asked her why she did that. “I wanted to see what Jesus looks like up close,” she said.
Emanuel, diocesan coordinator for special needs ministries, shared this anecdote with attendees at a Nov. 5 conference on “From Inclusion to Belonging; Embracing Disability as Part of the Church.” The conference drew 140, including parents and teachers, catechists and youth ministers, principals and clergy, to learn more about helping people with disabilities become more involved in parish life.
The half-day program featured sessions led by experts, conversations with parents, and information on how the diocese is emphasizing building an accessible and welcoming community for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.
Organizers included Emanuel; Diane Elliott and Susan Rinaldi from the diocesan schools’ office; Carmen Chiappetta and Guadalupe Williamson from Special Blessings, a local Catholic support group for moms of children with intellectual disabilities; and Larry Rzepka from Porto Charities.
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