Revised Guidelines and Parish Resource Guide Improve Access for People with Disabilities

Two new documents are available to clergy and laity to help them understand that 20 percent of the approximately 252,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Allentown, or 50,000 people, have some disabling condition.

The documents are “Welcoming People with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Creating Inclusive Parishes” and “Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities.”

The first, created and designed by the Office for Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, titled “Welcoming People with Disabilities: A Resource Guide for Creating Inclusive Parishes,” gives specific, best practice suggestions of how to minister with persons with disabilities, and welcome and include persons with disabilities in the communication, physical environment, religious education, preparation and reception of the sacraments.

“Catholics with disabilities often express that the attitudes of others are sometimes a greater barrier to full participation in parish life than physical accessibility,” said Sister Janice Marie Johnson, Director of the Diocesan Office for Ministry with Persons with Disabilities (OMPD).

“Hopefully the suggestions presented in the Parish Resource Guide will give persons with disabilities the opportunity to worship, learn, experience fellowship, and serve alongside their brothers and sisters in the parish liturgical celebrations and community.”

Revised sacramental guidelines set by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stipulate better standards governing the celebration of sacraments for people with disabilities. They were developed for the purpose of greater consistence in pastoral practice in the celebration of the sacraments throughout the country.

The eight general principles of the USCCB’s “Revised Guidelines of the Celebration of the Sacraments with People with Disabilities” encourage parish staff and faithful to make their parishes accessible to all.

According to a statement by the USCCB, “These sacramental guidelines take into account medical and technological innovations of recent years, and emphasize the importance of the inclusion of all members of parishes. While not legislative in nature, they will be a helpful resource for dioceses and parishes.”

The approved revisions include supporting parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of a life-threatening condition, suggestions to help determine how those who use feeding tubes may avail themselves of the abundant fruits of Holy Communion, enhanced guidelines and suggestions related to the reception of Holy Communion for Catholics with Celiac Sprue Disease, and people with Alzheimer’s or other age-related dementias.

“The Church continues to affirm the dignity of every human being and to grow in knowledge and understanding of the gifts and needs of her members who live with disabilities,” notes the USCCB guidelines.

For more information, contact Sister Janice at 610-871-5200, ext. 2280 or