Gail williams with pope francis (Rome, october 2017). Gail took part in an international conference held in Italy, entitled: “Catechesis and persons with disabilities: a necessary engagement in the daily pastoral life of the church.” Over the course of the 3 day gathering 450 experts from around the world shared their insights.
Dear Friends at Saint Anselm’s and beyond!
My name is Gail Williams and I work for St Joseph’s Pastoral centre who are the agency for the Diocese of Westminster for the support of children and adults with learning disabilities. These disabilities can include Downs Syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and developmental disabilities which unlike physical disabilities are not always recognisable.
Sometimes families find it hard to come to Church or sadly do not feel welcomed.
It is more difficult to include these families in Parish and Social life but it can be done and we believe that the Parish is more enriched by placing our vulnerable members, who often find themselves on the fringes of our community, at the heart of our communities.
As part my role as a Disabilities advisor I assist Parishes in providing support for Catechesis for the Sacraments. We teach using Symbolic Catechesis to help prepare the people with learning disabilities (PWLD).
The concrete symbol speaks directly to the heart. It has not changed even though the answers given are very different. Our Faith does not change but means something different to us all. Essentially our faith gives us strength, strength for life, this does not change because you cannot express yourself in the same way as others.
Our methods do not just use symbols but music, ritual and sensory aids and different methods of communication such as signing drawing on all senses to help the PWLD to come to full understanding of their faith and receive full grace with Christ.
Throughout the year St Joseph’s offers families’ trips and outings Pantomime to Aylesford. This year we took a group from St Joseph’s to Lourdes with the Diocesan pilgrimage. We are grateful for help with our ministry in any way at all. The help does not need to be in Catechesis but if you feel you can lend your support in any way at all please come and see me for more information. This help can be by volunteering to help at our Centre or in the parish by fundraising or befriending or driving.
Fr Gerard invited me here to try to find those with learning and physical disabilities who find it difficult to come to Mass or sadly feel unable to attend, in order to offer them support and special liturgies in which they can participate and also to offer a pathway to the Sacraments for those who have felt unable to access them in the past. If you live with or care for an adult or child with learning disabilities or know a family that could benefit from Parish support please do not hesitate to contact me. Also if you would like to volunteer to help with this initiative then we would also be grateful.
I would like to thank Fr Gerard for making me feel so welcome.
FOR CONTACT DETAILS AND SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE WORK OF ST JOSEPH’S PASTORAL CENTRE PLEASE CLICK HERE: st.Joseph-Gail.Williams.PWLD .