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Letters | Sunday, 30 November 2008

Access to all, success for all

This is the motto chosen by the National Committee for Persons with Disability for the coming week, the first week of December. Behind this motto there is certainly a lot of thought and a sense of direction.
Accessibility should not be limited to private and public places but should also encompass the sense of inclusion in the family, in the Church, in education, the workplace, entertainment, sports, housing and health. In these sectors a lot of progress has been made due to the efforts of the National Committee for the Disabled. However we must endeavour to defend all the rights due to the Disabled for whatever is needed for their total development.
The Church is also doing its part so that these persons with disabilities may find their place which by right belongs to them in the ecclesial community because “the call of the Lord is for each and everyone” (Christifideles laici, para 5). Persons with intellectual disabilities are also to be included in the Life of Faith. The Church in Malta is doing this in various ways among which there is the training of adults for the ‘Life and Faith Companion’ as well as b the programme SPRED –Special Religious development.
In the past two years the Board set up by the Diocesan Commission for Persons with Disability has held two courses and set up groups of ‘Life and Faith companion’. The idea is to give the support necessary to the parents having a disabled child. The ‘Life and Faith Companion’ will help the parents understand in depth and grow themselves in the Faith. They will thus understand their Faith better and that these can live a normal life because they have the same rights as and potential as any other person. These persons who went through the courses showed real commitment and very soon they will receive their mandate from the Archbishop.
Id-Dar tal-Providenza has also benefited from the SPRED programmes. In this case the catechesis was based on the model of love and companionship between the resident, their parents and the companion who meet to share the Gospel and their union with God which gives meaning to their lives. In such a journey of Faith the participants rely on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit where few words are needed and thus the Gospel touches the heart rather than the mind. All the people concerned are anxiously looking forward to these sessions when we shall be able to witness the persons with intellectual disabilities communicating their sense of joy and by symbolic, yet simple, gestures. These sessions will end with the AGAPE and joyful singing – a feast of love and sharing just as the original Christians used to do.
This educational/religious process was made possible by the initiative of Fr Trevor Fairclough and George Harrington along with 20 catechists divided into 24 groups of Faith. They belong to a Centre that works with persons with intellectual disability in the diocese of Westminster, London. At the suggestion of this Centre contact was made with SPRED in the Diocese of Glasgow, Scotland to keep up the formation of the catechists.
We, the parents of these children as well as catechists and companions feel that this programme – SPRED – was a success in the Dar tal-Providenza and we are certain that the enthusiasm generated by the new Director Fr. Martin Micallef will fire up the other parishes so that the spark set off here will spread through Malta.
If Maltese society continues to commit itself towards the full rights of the disabled, we surely can achieve the motto ‘access to all, success for all’.”

 


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