Longing for Belonging – Forty Years On

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NCPD, National Catholic Partnership on Disability

We receive calls from sorrowful parents who have been told their child with Down syndrome cannot be prepared to receive the Eucharist. Other families with Deaf members cannot locate a Sunday Mass with a sign-language interpreter. We all belong, but does it feel that way?

“We face these continuing challenges and ask this question as we launch our Longing for Belonging fundraising campaign and prepare for our Recognizing the Body of Christ anniversary events,” said Janice Benton, Executive Director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD).

“Among our God-given rights is one of belonging – belonging to the human race; belonging in the Catholic Church. We are all one through the unity of the Body of Christ. We all belong. Yet many faith-filled Catholics with disabilities do not feel that sense of belonging. Many continue to have a longing for belonging,” said Benton. “We all belong, but not all of us recognize this unity in the Body of Christ. Catholics with and without disabilities, one in the Body of Christ, should be participating together in the sacraments and the life of the Church.”

NCPD was created by the U.S. bishops nearly 40 years ago, following their Pastoral Statement on Persons with Disabilities to lend support, guidance and education to dioceses and, through them, to parishes so that every person is rightfully recognized as belonging in the Church – with access to the sacraments, full participation in the liturgical celebrations, and fulfilling their obligations as Catholics and parishioners.

The Longing for Belonging campaign seeks generous supporters to enable NCPD to continue its pioneering ministry. We have seen much progress over 40 years. But we also recognize that there is much more work to be done before we can say that all Catholics with disabilities experience the sense of belonging that is inherent to their being. Donations may be made and more information may be found on NCPD’s website: NCPD.org.

During this campaign, NCPD is celebrating the closing of the 40th anniversary year of the Bishops’ Statement with its Recognizing the Body of Christ anniversary events this November 8-10. A celebration dinner will be held on Friday, November 8 recognizing the pioneers in this ministry and honoring Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, for the Knights’ years of financial support and for their ongoing work with people with disabilities.

In addition, at the dinner NCPD will celebrate Janice Benton who is retiring after 40+ years working in this ministry. We are collecting stories of Jan Benton and other pioneers. Email your stories to 40thAnniversary@ncpd.org.

On Saturday, November 9, NCPD is hosting a symposium for clergy, pastoral and catechetical ministers, seminarians, theology students and academics to understand the distinctively Catholic approach to disability. The symposium is co-sponsored by Catholic University of America’s Institute for Human Ecology. A leadership networking session with national leadership from NCPD will be held on Sunday, November 10 to explore the future direction for promoting meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in parish life. The session also will look at Catholic education. For more information and to register for any of these events, please visit NCPD.org/join-us.


Copyright 2019 National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD)

National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) was established by the United States Bishops in 1982 to implement in U.S. parishes and dioceses the 1978 Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities. Rooted in Gospel values that affirm the dignity of every person, NCPD works collaboratively to ensure meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of the Church and society. 

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