Denver Catholic

2022_DC Magazine_July

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13 DENVER CATHOLIC | JULY 2022 W hatever a human being's condition, young or old, healthy or sick, law abiding or criminal, as disciples of Jesus we are called to see Jesus himself in this person and to respond to him or her in a way that befits the Imago Dei. We are to see every human being as an actual or potential member of the Body of Christ, and to see each as essential to that body, as one of "us" and never as some anonymous alien "them." As the parents of a person who is disabled, my husband and I have first-hand experience of the trauma of receiving an unexpected pre-na- tal diagnosis, subsequent pressure to treat the new life within me as something to be feared, and even the assurance of a doctor that, if he were present for her birth, he would not treat her for any medical issue related to her disability. He definitely saw our baby as one of "them" and openly disdained our insistence that she be treated as one of "us." That was over 23 years ago and our daughter, Rachel, is an engaging, cheerful young adult able to take any screen inter- face from blank to music videos in under five seconds. She is also prone to serial hugging, turning off all the lights left on in empty or occupied rooms, and singing something other than what the choir is singing during Mass. Our life with Rachel has given us a lot of opportunities to think through what it means for the Church to recog- nize people with disabilities as members of the Body of Christ and work to literally in-corpor-ate them into our life as a Church. We have learned the difference it makes when people shift from seeing this work as something "nice" to do for disabled people and their families to seeing it as necessary to the flourishing of the Body of Christ itself; when we shift from seeing accommodations for people with special needs as something we do for them 1   Interview with Charlie Camosy, The Pillar, May 6, 2022. because they want to be with us to something we do because we want them to be with us — we want them to be "us" and not an extraneous "them." Michele Chronister, who works with the National Catholic Partnership on Dis- ability, puts it this way: "Accessibility is less about serving those with disabilities, and more about acknowledging … that we need the gifts that God has given them, in order for the Church to truly flourish." 1 The Church is simply incomplete to the extent that persons with disabilities are not incorporated into her life. My husband and I sometimes reflect that our Rachel has been our primary "formator" — she has taught us so much more about life than we have taught her. Under her tutelage we have learned that fulfillment is found not in what we do but in who we are, not in what we achieve but in loving and being loved. Achievements are great, but they are not the point of life. My husband and I might have been able to know that intellectually but I don't think we would know it in our hearts the way we do without Rachel. Including people like Rachel means that this kind of formation can extend beyond the domestic Church to the Church at large. I think it is providence that has enabled us to learn so much about how to include people with disabilities in this same era when we are shifting from Christendom to a new Apos- tolic Age: we are entering a time when there will be many fewer Christian achievements that are celebrated in the culture at large. We will need to measure our success by the faithfulness of our discipleship, not by the acknowl- edgement of our fellow citizens. Nowhere is the recalibration of "success" more import- ant than in our schools. Here in Denver this recalibration has been made explicit in "School of the Lord's Service," a guiding framework adopted by the Archdiocese in 2020. BY DR. SUSAN SELNER-WRIGHT Associate Professor and Archbishop Charles Chaput Chair of Philosophy at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary What does it mean to be pro-life? At its core, it means to recognize every human being as who he or she is: the intentional creation of God, who has deliberately called this person into life. ⊲ People with disabilities, such as Rachel (pictured), are not some- thing to be feared; on the contrary, they are as much a gift of life as any other and are an integral part of the Body of Christ. Photo provided

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