Accepting the Gift is focused on providing resources and support to Catholic special needs parents. However, we are always happy to assist, pastors, catechists, and lay people taking the initiative in making their parishes more welcoming to disabled Catholics and their families. So often parishes think of what they need to do to accommodate disabled people they fail to see all that disabled adults and children have to offer the Church. When special needs families can show up and participate in Mass, religious education, sacramental prep, and parish activities, everyone benefits. Start with the assumption that your parish CAN make the accommodation, CAN provide the sacrament, and CAN include someone before saying “No”. Your efforts may be what keep a family from leaving the Church permanently. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our resources below.
Church Statements and Documents
- Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities – USCCB
- Pastoral Statement on Persons with Disabilities – USCCB
Be sure to check out all the resources on the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s (NCPD) website. They offer courses, live events, and support to parishes and dioceses who want to promote “the Meaningful Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Church and Society”.
Not sure if your diocese has a disability ministry or contact person to help you? Visit NCPD’s directory to find out.
For more organizations that serve the disability community and may assist you in meeting the needs of special needs families within your parish or diocese, please visit our list of recommended websites.
It’s possible for parishes of all sizes to include children of all abilities in their religious education classrooms. You can visit the Catechesis page on NCPD’s website for ideas, and check out the books below for more practical tips.
Books For Catechists
- The Adaptive Teacher: Faith-Based Strategies to Reach and Teach Learners with Disabilities
- Taking the Lift to Heaven: The Pocket Guide to Adaptive Ministry in Your Catholic Parish
- Handbook for Adaptive Catechesis: Serving Those With Special Needs
- SPRED – A program founded in the Archdiocese of Chicago to help special needs children to become prepared to receive their sacraments and participate in the liturgical life of their parish.
- Loyola Press – Offers curriculum and kits designed to provide religious education and sacramental prep to children with disabilities.
- Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Program – A comprehensive religion curriculum designed to help parents and catechists in their task of teaching special children and adults about the Catholic faith
- The Accepting the Gift Religious Education Guidebook and Workbook – Designed for home use, we also offer classroom licenses for catechists who prefer our hands-on approach.
If you would like to learn about making your school inclusive, there are several wonderful organizations working at the national and regional level to make Catholic schools accessible to all children.
- National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion
- Fire Foundation – based in Kansas City, MO with affiliates in Northeast Iowa, Northwest Iowa, New Hampshire, Dallas, TX, Central Illinois, Denver, CO, Northwest Indiana, and Milwaukee, WI.
- Rising Together Alliance – Inclusive Catholic education in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
- One Classroom – Inclusive Catholic education in the St. Louis Archdiocese.
- Catholic Coalition for Special Education – Inclusive Catholic education in Washington D.C and Baltimore.
To learn how accessible your parish is for disabled Catholics, download the Language, Accessibility, Meaningful Participation, and Belonging (LAMB) Tool from NCPD’s website. It is best to complete the assessment with the help of the disabled members of your parish.
Learn how to welcome disabled parishioners with this guide from Joni and Friends: Making Your Church Accessible: Removing Barriers; Physical and Social
If you are considering bringing a sensory friendly Mass to your parish, the following resources are available to guide you. So many special needs parents would be able to return with their children on Sundays with a more welcoming and sensory friendly Mass available.
- At the NCPD website there is an online training.
- A toolkit to get started can be found at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s website.
- Printable guide from the diocese of Des Moines, IA.
- Sensory Friendly Mass Directory
Our founder, Kelly Mantoan has spoken to parish and religious education staff about how they can work with special needs parents to create a more welcoming and inclusive parish that benefits not only disabled Catholics and their families but the parish as a whole. Kelly has also brought her story of hope to other special needs parents who may be struggling in their vocation. You can bring Kelly to your parish in person, or virtually, for an engaging presentation or workshop. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.