Seeking Parish Contacts

 

By Mary Pianta, Diocesan Disability Contact Coordinator

Since the cessation of the Australian Catholic Disability Council at the end of 2019, dioceses across Australia have been encouraged to participate in a national network of disability contact coordinators. Bishop Shane has appointed me to work in this role and I am excited about this new position.MaryPianta SHC 350


I look forward to the establishment of a network of parish-based contacts within our diocese, who will assist in increasing awareness and the inclusion of people with disability and their families in the faith life of the church.


Many people with disabilities find church to be a difficult place to get connected. Accessibility is vital for those who have a physical disability, or need wheelchair assistance, to be able to attend Mass or parish meetings. A deciding factor might often be the accessibility of the toilets. Whatever adjustments we are able to make will certainly be welcomed and valued by those with disabilities.


Through our baptismal promises we are called to be inclusive – we need to welcome and acknowledge people with disability and their families who reside within our parish boundaries. Jesus invited everyone to his celebrations, even sought out those living on the margins. He recognised the value and dignity of every person.


Parents, friends, parish and school can work together to dispel misunderstandings and myths that may impede full participation of people with disability in parish life. We may be able to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation while providing much needed support in some parts of the diocese.
In rural areas there is often a lack of knowledge of disability services available. This is problematic for older people who are isolated and have difficulty navigating information online. For those in these situations, we can offer them help in understanding the options available to them. It will be beneficial to have a contact person with knowledge of the local context and the ability to provide local, relevant information.


According to the 2016 Census, we have a great number of people with a variety of disabilities in our diocese. Fortunately, we also have large numbers of people who are already assisting their family members or friends to be involved in community and parish life, which I find very promising.
Since I accepted this position, my plans have been delayed due to travel restrictions. I had intended to gather information about current practices and facilities, including some existing initiatives which could be shared and scaled up to deanery or diocesan level.


This is still my goal, with those details informing us for parish improvements and policies to support people with disabilities and their families. Every congregation in every parish will have similar needs but different responses. After speaking directly with parishioners with disabilities to learn of their unique needs and preferences, we can aim to make it possible for them to be involved, to feel welcome and to achieve their expectations.


As was stated last time, the Bishops’ Commission still calls us to be communities “where we can use and celebrate the gifts of people living with disability”. To accomplish this, it needs the willingness of interested people to act as disability contacts for their area. If you feel you could help with this new project, please contact your Parish Priest so he can pass on your details.


I am looking forward to meeting many generous people all over our diocese; listening to your stories and working closely with you to implement positive change.

Mary Pianta.
Disability Contact Coordinator, Diocese of Sandhurst.
Email:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mobile: 0473 745 811

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