“The same Jesus who heard the cry for recognition from the people with disabilities of Judea and Samaria 2,000 years ago calls us, his followers, to embrace our responsibility to our own disabled brothers and sisters in the United States.”

Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities 

Cardinal Turkson
A priest hears confession of a man with disabilities. W.P. Wittman Ltd.

The Church calls for inclusion of everyone in the life of faith, and The National Directory for Catechesis states that “persons with disabilities … are integral members of the Christian community.” Yet it wasn’t always easy for parents to find the appropriate religious education to prepare their cognitively challenged children for a full sacramental life. 

In 1978, a pastoral statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on People With Disabilities directed the Church community to replace ignorance and apathy with “sensitivity and warm acceptance” to welcome people with disabilities “as equal partners” within the faith community. The document called for adaptations of evangelization and active participation “that speaks to [their] particular needs.” 

Since then, dioceses and parishes — many led by parents— have developed, implemented and continue to evolve and expand a variety of inclusive and adaptive sacramental preparation programs for children and young adults. Here are some of their stories.