Special Needs

Mission Statement

The Department of Special Needs Ministries seeks to create vibrant parish and community programs where all are truly welcomed and invited to walk with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. The Department helps provide access to faith through the reception of the Sacraments and participation in parish life. These efforts often bring us into collaborative partnerships so that all people are valued and supported in their home, school, parish, place of employment and community. Department programs are offered in multiple languages including American Sign Language, Spanish and French. Supports are also available in Braille as well as other formats for those with communication differences.

Who We Serve

  • Persons who are Deaf and Deaf Blind
  • Gallaudet University Chaplaincy; St. Francis Deaf Catholic Church and local ASL- interpreted parishes
  • Persons who are Low Vision or Blind
  • Persons with Disabilities—physical, developmental, intellectual or sensory disabilities
  • Families receiving an unexpected prenatal diagnosis of disability or lethal condition
  • Persons with mental illness
  • Veterans with Service-related disability
  • Persons living with HIV/AIDS

“Persons with disabilities…are integral members of the Christian community. All persons with disabilities have the capacity to proclaim the Gospel and to be living witnesses to its truth within the community of faith and offer valuable gifts. Their involvement enriches every aspect of Church life.  They [persons with disabilities] are not just the recipients of catechesis—they are also its agents.”  – National Directory of Catechesis, Paragraph 49

We are made in God’s image. We are all part of the human family, and in baptism, we become equal members of the Body of Christ. The Department helps Catholics with special needs access their faith by providing support, education, resources and connections to community partners. In particular, we help Catholics more fully participate in Mass, in reception of the sacraments (including faith formation), and in experiencing the richness of parish life. Our work often extends outside the parish, involving partnerships with local organizations, employers, governmental bodies and institutions.

The work of the Department is formed by the 1978 Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Statement, which calls upon people of good will to promote the well-being of those who are Deaf or who have a disability and their full inclusion into the life of the parish and our Church. The statement reminds us that all persons have unique gifts to share and that these gifts can be harnessed in service to the Church and our communities.


Ministry for Persons with Disabilities

Below are just a few of the ways we serve our brothers and sisters living with disabilities and their families:

Special Needs Catechesis: Ongoing training, materials development for parents and catechists, including best practices for using Religious IEP’s.

Affirming Life/Prenatal Diagnosis Initiative: Helping parishes support women and families to carry to term following unexpected prenatal diagnosis of a disability or fatal defect. For more information, click here.

White Mass: Annual Mass celebrating the giftedness of all persons especially Deaf Catholics and Catholics with Disabilities.

Parish Ministry Formation: Helping create ministries serving persons who are disabled that meet the specific needs of these persons in their parishes.

Adult Faith Formation: Supporting Faith & Light communities for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Contact the Department of Special Needs Ministries for information on Faith and Light Communities in your area.

Housing Opportunities: Helping create group homes for persons with disabilities on parish property, using the Rosaria Communities, Inc. model.

Hispanic Ministry Special Needs Catechesis: Translating materials into Spanish; developing Hispanic Special Needs ministries based in parishes.

Retreats for Families: Spiritual retreats for families caring for a person with a disability.

Contact the Department of Special Needs Ministries for more information.