Respect for life takes many forms, as shown in an article in the Review this week. Rose Gronemeyer, a special education teacher at Sacred Heart School in Florissant for nearly four decades, and several friends opened the Village of the Blue Rose in 2000 to provide a safe, nurturing environment for young adults with special needs — a place where after their education they could live, work and — most of all — grow in body, mind and spirit.
Gronemeyer puts her faith into action and demonstrates a true respect for life through her efforts as a resident houseparent. Many other Catholics show similar dedication.
The teachings and tradition of our Catholic faith affirm the dignity of every human person, born in the image and likeness of God. Pope Francis has made a point during his pontificate to embrace those with disabilities.
Janice Benton and Nancy Thompson of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability have written eloquently about the topic. "The Catholic Church does not 'allow in' persons with disabilities, because we recognize that they already belong," they wrote. "If a person is missing or not recognized as a valuable member of the community, the Body of Christ is incomplete. Instead, we must take proactive steps to make room for and embrace persons with disabilities and their families."
Belonging is a step beyond just including people, Rob Funke of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Parish in south St. Louis County told the Review last fall. "It's being that person to step out of his or her comfort zone to approach someone and say, 'Hey, how can we help as a parish,' 'How can I help as an individual' or 'How can we help as a family'" so people with disabilities "feel that sense of belonging."
L'Arche St. Louis is a dynamic faith-centered community sharing life with persons who have a developmental disability. A L'Arche Evening with Friends is planned at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, in the Currigan Room at St. Louis University High School, 4970 Oakland Ave., with Michael Joseph McDonald and the L'Arche St. Louis Community. McDonald is the filmmaker behind L'Arche's latest docu-series "AsIAm."
Many Catholics also support people with disabilities through other organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Columbus Developmental Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital or through Special Olympics.
As Catholics, we need to follow the advice of Benton, Thompson and Funke to embrace people with disabilities and their families. A welcoming attitude goes a long way.
We also need to familiarize ourselves and support ministries and programs such as the Village of Blue Rose, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability, L'Arche and the archdiocese's Department of Special Education and St. Mary's Special Services, which is part of the Catholic Education Office.
Village of the Blue Rose
12533 Hwy 79
Clarksville, MO 63336
L'Arche St. Louis
2934 Marshall Ave
Maplewood, MO 63143
National Catholic Partnership on Disability
415 Michigan Ave., NE Suite 95,
Washington, DC 20017-4501
(202) 529-2933 or (202) 529-2934 (tty)
Catholic Education Office
Department of Special Education
20 Archbishop May Drive
St. Louis MO 63119
Knights of Columbus
www.kofc.org RELATED ARTICLE(S):Village of the Blue Rose nurtures young adults with special needs