Links for Learners
by Lynn and Bob Gillen
The following Links
for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St.
Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study
at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind,
but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article
for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain
this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide
or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should
encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have
our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use.
We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony
Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles
that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know
how we can improve this service by sending feedback to StAnthony@franciscanmedia.org.
Please see our links disclaimer located
at the end of this document.
Links for Learning
1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and
This months Links for Learners will support high school
- Religionthe sacraments; the diverse needs of our community.
- Social Studiesthe legal rights of the disabled; resources
- Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants
Look for connections for use in programs such as:
Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes;
seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find some of this material useful in initiating
discussion around the dinner table, in home study or at family
Understanding Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions
or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from
the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.
Catholic social teaching
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Catholic Churchs Teaching on Persons with
Kevins approach to Jesus in first Communion is a
sign of the Churchs openness to all. Here are references to some
of the documents declaring the Churchs welcoming approach:
The National Conference
of Catholic Bishops, in November 1978, issued the "Pastoral
Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities."
The address for the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities
can also be found at their Web site.
In November 1998, the 20th anniversary of the
pastoral statement on disabilities, the archbishop of Seattle, Alex
J. Brunett, issued a commemorative statement, which can be found on
the Web site of the Seattle
Archdiocese. Here youll find a good discussion of the theology
of inclusion, the desire to have all people an active part of the Christian
The Catholic bishops believe that disability is a condition
of the human body, not the human spirit. Disabled persons therefore
have the right to participate in the sacraments as full members of the
Church community. How does this teaching match up with our own thinking?
What do we feel when we see a person with special needs going to receive
the Lord in holy Communion? Are our hearts open in love, ready to embrace
To illustrate the belief of the Catholic bishops, take
another look at the story. Kevins understanding is limited, yet
on target. He understands that church is over when the people hug and
shake hands and talk. Thats why he was ready to leave at the sign
of peace before receiving his Communion. Kevin knew the signals. He
felt the spirit of the celebration of Eucharist. And he knew what "Pray!"
means. How many of us, in our complicated lives, can focus on prayer
as quickly and simply as Kevin does?
You can order the Guidelines
for the Celebration of the Sacraments, a 1995 guide published by
the Catholic bishops for persons with disabilities, through the National
Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Sacraments for the Differently AbledKevins
This story is a fine example of intergenerational love
and support within a family. A grandmother with expertise in religious
education steps forward to work with her daughter-in-law and grandson
to prepare him for his first Communion. The teaching challengethe
young boy is mentally retarded. How to teach a love and understanding
of the Eucharist to a boy with a limited learning capacity motivates
the family and the parish community.
Your class or discussion group can begin talking about
the story by looking for parallels in their own life experiences. Are
there physically or mentally challenged individuals in their families
or parish communities or schools with whom they interact? Can they describe
the challenges they face, and how they themselves interact with them?
You can also gather stories from other sources. Read through
the Gospel stories to find the many situations where Jesus reaches out
to people with disabilities and challenges. One simple example is the
story of Zacchaeus. Being short of stature, he could not see Jesus over
the crowds, so he climbed a tree to get a glimpse of him. Jesus called
out to Zacchaeus, rewarding his efforts with a personal visit. There
are so many other stories of Jesus touching the blind, the chronically
sick all the people whose special needs were so often ignored
You can brainstorm or search through other sources such
as books, movies and television for more examples. You may recall Chris
Burke, the actor with Down Syndrome, from his television role with the
show, Life Goes On. He now has a small recurring role on Touched
by an Angel, playing an angel himself. What does Burkes portrayal
of an angel tell us about Gods love?
For more information about Burke, see his autobiography,
A Special Kind of Hero, and look at the Burke
page at the site of the Arc of Arkansas Performing Arts Camp.
Burkes role as an angel is an interesting one, reminiscent
of some peoples belief that the differently abled have come to
this life to teach the rest of us how to respond in love by helping
them. They have a high level of spiritual awareness,
some say. Certainly the differently abled teach us all about how to
live a Christian life. Their courage and determination teach us respect
and tenacity. Their simplicity and dependence teach us to love unselfishly.
Their diversity, their different needs teach us to face our own needs
in truth. Whats your opinion?
Service to the Differently Abled
Its far too easy for many of us to live only in
our own narrow worlds, oblivious to the special needs of others. Parish
and school service programs call for youth to participate in helping
others. But do we still put up barriers that keep us from offering support
to those most in need, or to those who are different from us? Do we
choose only the comfortable service projects?
This months article can open us to the courage to
extend a hand beyond our own comfort zones. Teens can research their
community resources to find a special need for service. With the power
and reach of the Internet, perhaps a youth group can correspond with
teens with special needs, even if they cant actually meet or visit
Or, in Kevins story, can teens offer to continue
teaching Kevin about Jesus? Can they sit with him in church, and receive
the Eucharist with him? Look for opportunities in your own parish or
community. The parents and caregivers for people with special needs
can often use a break or a little extra love and help. Theres
no doubt that special training may be required in some situations. Look
for the areas where, with some orientation and guidance, you can make
In New York City Rick Curry, a Jesuit brother, runs the
National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped.
The group conducts workshops for artists with disabilities. Locate other
programs such as this one, or think of some ideas for programs that
could be started.
Resources for Parents and Caregivers
One of the remarkable things about this months story
is that it is Kevins grandmother who initiates preparing him for
first Communion. Parents can perhaps be reluctant to bring their children
forward for the sacraments when physical or mental challenge is present.
But again, the Church is open and welcoming, not just in policy but
in the person of fellow church community members and family. Certainly
one of the messages of this story isdont hold back. Come
forward in hope. Dont be afraid to approach the church. If your
parish does not have a religious educator on staff who is experienced
or qualified to work with the differently abled, you can explore resources
in other area parishes. Or try looking on the Internet for your own
dioceses Web site, where you may find lists of parishes and resources.
For information on the legal and policy resources on the
civil rights of people with mental disabilities, see the Bazelon
Center for Mental Health Law.
Peter Rosenberger writes a fine article on the challenges
of working a full-time job and taking care of the physical needs of
his wife, who is a double amputee. The article is featured in Outlook
Humor so often helps us to raise our spirits, no matter
how difficult the situation. Youll find a cartoon titled "Dizabled"
at the Outlook
site. The cartoon highlights a wheelchair stuntman.
You can access a network of information and resources
through the Eunice Kennedy Shriver
The links contained within this resource guide are functional
at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links
may become ineffective.
These links are provided solely as a convenience to you
and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony
Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the
content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations
regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web
sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do
so at your own risk.