The Diocesan Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities has initiated the Parish Advocacy Program to enable parishes to better respond to the gifts and needs of their parishioners with disabilities.
Recognizing the Dignity, Rights & Potential of All People
The program is in response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’1978 Pastoral Statement of Persons with Disabilities, which challenges the Church to create an environment that fully recognizes the dignity, rights and potential of all people.
A parish advocate is a person who assists the pastor in working for and with parishioners with disabilities. The advocate strives to assist parishioners with disabilities to become full participants in the life of the Church – spiritually, physically and socially. The role of the parish advocate is to assist parishioners with disabilities to become full participants in the life of the Church. The advocate will become part of the diocesan network of advocates and will receive annual training from the Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities.
Parish advocates are selected by the pastor and should have good interpersonal skills and an ability to work closely with the pastor and parish staff. Advocates can be persons with disabilities or should have some prior experience with people with disabilities. Most importantly, advocates should have a “heart” for people with disabilities and be eager to welcome, include and work with these parishioners. The advocate must be available for annual training sponsored by the Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities.
- Work with the pastor and staff to welcome and include people with disabilities into parish life.
- Make contact with parishioners with disabilities to assess needs, talents and ways in which they are involved or wish to be involved in parish life.
- Sensitize parishioners to the needs and gifts of people with disabilities.
- Welcome people with disabilities and their families into parish life and programs.
- Identify barriers (physical, communication, visual, attitudinal, etc) to parish life and programs and, with the pastor, work to eliminate those barriers.
- Network with parish advocates in other parishes and with the diocesan Office of Ministry with People with Disabilities.
- Attend annual diocesan training for parish advocates.