Sunday, January 27, 2008
Last week I spoke to the person in charge of disability issues for my Catholic diocese. I've written before about trying to find a church that was welcoming to my family, and about my failure to find that. So, I was encouraged when my oldest daughter's behavior counselor gave me the name and phone number for the person at the diocese.
I spoke with Nita, a mother herself of an adult son with significant disabilities. I was encouraged, sure that she would understand the struggles I had been through. And while I believe she does understand to a degree, the phone call didn't leave me with a strong belief that my struggles would end.
Nita suggested two churches near me, and she was very anxious to list all the positive points about each. But when I explained Ashley's disabilities, her need for a sign language interpreter who could do tactile sign, and that I wanted Ashley to receive religious instruction, I heard the pause in her voice.
I've found that many churches believe they are accessible by the mere fact of having ramps and an interpreter at the front of the church during services. Those accomodations are indeed commendable, but they are not enough. My daughter cannot see an interpreter at the front of the church. And, I don't believe she needs to just sit in church during the service. I want her to have religious instruction. I want her to find the peace and comfort I have found in my religion. And, after attending Chancellor's funeral last week, I was even more convinced that she needs to find a faith that will sustain her during life's most difficult times. I want Ashley to understand that when I die, I will be waiting in Heaven for her. I don't want her to just think I deserted her. At this point in time, she would not understand, and that breaks my heart.
Surely a church must exist that has figured out how to instruct people with intellectual disabilities. I want to believe that there is a church that will welcome my family as well as provide religious instruction for all my children. Am I expecting too much?