Tag: special needs

Disability, Education, and Faith

“Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face — at times painfully — frailty and illness, both our own and those of others,” said Pope Francis on June 12th, when he gave a homily celebrating Mass for the Year of Mercy jubilee of the sick and persons with disabilities.

 

Celebrating love and solidarity over focus on physical perfection and hiding away those who do not fit a standard or idea as a way to make the world a better place, His Holiness also said “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ — not to mention fake — people live there, but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.”

 

Assisted at the altar by several alter servers with Down Syndrome, the Mass took place in St. Peter’s Square, and showcased several other people with disabilities including a reading of Scripture written in Braille, and Pope Francis made clear that while limitations are part of being human, we don’t always understand that. We have this idea that “sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment.”

 

“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model,” the pope said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.”

 

He goes on to talk about that those attitudes hindering the real meaning of life, which “has to do with accepting suffering and limitations,” and that those, the sick and weak, cast aside by society, are exactly the ones that Jesus loved most. Love is the only real path to being happy. “How many disabled and suffering persons open their hearts to life again as soon as they realize they are loved! How much love can well up in a heart simply with a smile!”

 

“Each one of us has a different way of understanding things. One understands one way and another in a different manner, but we can all know God.”

 

This is something I believe we must focus on in education as well. There are any number of issues facing children in health, access, and ability. But to truly teach a great and faith-based education, one must put accessibility and diversity at the forefront.
“Differences are a richness because I have something and you have something else and by putting the two together we have something more beautiful, something greater,” the pope said. Diversity is not something to fear, but is “the path to improvement, to be more beautiful and richer.”

Special Needs Catholic School Hopes

A project that has been in the works for years, after searching in many, many places for the right location, the first high school in the United States that both offers a Catholic education, and also caters exclusively to students with special needs, has found a home in Michigan. The campus of Veritas Christi Catholic High School hopes to begin classes in the fall of this year. “Our goal is to create a loving, peaceful, Christ-centered environment for these special children of God; a place where they can engage fully in the process of learning without having to worry all the time about being teased and taunted and harassed for their disabilities,” said Richard Nye, a co-founder of Veritas Christi and president of the board, in a press statement this week.

Veritas Christi has been offering classes online for over five years, and they have been searching for a place to set the campus down for students since that time. It will be an independent school in the Diocese of Lansing, and is a member of the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools. However, Deacon John M. Cameron, JCL, chancellor of the Diocese of Lansing, told the Newman Society that Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing “has not consented for [Veritas Christi] to use the title of ‘Catholic school.'”

Richard Nye, co-founder, has said that they have secures a lease agreement in a former Catholic boys schools that closed about a year and a half ago. Many of the best schools for children with special needs are currently boarding schools, says Nye, and turning the school into a boarding school is “really our long term goal”. For now, however, they have other obstacles to accomplish in order to pay the entire first year’s rent for the campus, which sits on about 60 acres of land, and has 10 buildings, a swimming pool, and lots of room for athletic pursuits.

The amount of money they are looking to raise is in the low six figures, and they are looking to raise it by April 30th so that they can prepare for the fall start of the 2016-2017 school year. While they admit to the goal of raising these funds and opening so soon to be audacious, they believe it can be done, and they anticipate having a line of potential students “out the door and around the corner.”

While there are some Catholic education schools that specialize in certain special needs children, this school plans to admit all different categories of special needs disabilities. “Catholic parents trying to educate their special-needs children need the Church now more than ever. Unfortunately, there are very few options available to them because the Church has been painfully slow to respond to this obvious need,” said Lori and Eric Williams of Metamora, Mich., the parents of two children with special needs, in Veritas Christi’s press statement. “Fortunately, Veritas Christi exists to continue the work of Christ on behalf of these special children of God.”