Inspiration on ministry to those with disabilities

These are the covers of “Salt and Light: Church, Disability and the Blessing of Welcome for All” by Maureen Pratt and “A Cry Is Heard: My Path to Peace” by Jean Vanier with Francois-Xavier Maigre. The books are reviewed by Brian T. Olszewski. (CNS)

By Brian T. Olszewski (CNS)”Salt and Light: Church, Disability and the Blessing of Welcome for All” by Maureen Pratt. Twenty Third Publications (New London, Connecticut, 2018). 114 pp, $16.95.
“A Cry Is Heard: My Path to Peace” by Jean Vanier with Francois-Xavier Maigre. Twenty Third Publications (New London, Connecticut, 2018). 144 pp, $16.95.
One might be surprised that in a book of 114 pages, 16 of them are devoted to the introduction. Yet those are critical pages for Maureen Pratt’s “Salt and Light” as they explain why parishes need to examine how they welcome members with disabilities, how they minister to and with them, and how they invite them to minister within the faith community.
Pratt, a journalist who has lupus erythematosus, which she describes as “a chronic autoimmune condition that has no cure and can sometimes be life-threatening,” praises the church in general for its willingness to address the needs, particularly catechetical needs, of people with disabilities, and to make accommodations, e.g., ramps, elevators, enhanced listening devices, etc.
But she notes it is about more than that; the necessary ingredient in welcoming those with disabilities is “the right attitude.”
Pratt helps readers form that attitude through chapters that define disability; explain welcome and how it is to be extended; address catechetical formation; and delve into outreach, vocations, social life, etc. Each chapter begins with a question, e.g., “How do you welcome others into your life?” and concludes with “food for thought” and a prayer.
Those who serve parishes as ordained ministers, catechists, liturgical ministers, members of various councils and committees, and in any manner will benefit from “Salt and Light.” However, this is not a book for a shelf in the parish office.
Anyone familiar with Catholic outreach to those with developmental disabilities is aware of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and co-founder of Faith and Light. In that awareness one knows of the call he accepted and the commitment he made to serve the other-abled. That commitment has inspired others throughout the world to do the same.
“A Cry Is Heard” is autobiographical, but in a manner and style one would expect from a 90-year-old faithful servant to the developmentally challenged who has something to say about people he’s met, experiences he’s had, and having a deep and loving relationship with God.
Readers will receive Vanier’s thoughts on St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. John Paul II, Dorothy Day and others whose names they might not recognize but who are important to the author. They’ll read about his experiences, e.g., L’Arche’s roots and growth, how it was received by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in the 1970s and the international impact the ministry has had.

(Olszewski is the editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia.)