Building Community
One Body In Christ
Anne Masters, MA, FAAIDD

Vol. 2, Issue 2, April 3, 2020
Hello to all clergy, religious and lay pastoral leaders,

I hope you are healthy and well during this difficult time. My past three weeks have probably been similar to yours, a mixed up period adapting to this difficult time and a "new normal" way of ministry and pastoral accompaniment: trying to figure out technology to bring people together in new ways, learning about the implications of Covid-19 on all people, but particularly on the different vulnerable groups of people we serve. Please remember individuals with disabilities and their families as you develop plans to reach out to the different vulnerable individuals in your parish.

This edition of One Body In Christ Together provides some Practical Suggestions , Covid-19 References , Events, and Accompanying Families. I apologize for violating newsletter rules of law and having so much text in the first article, rather than creating a link to an article on ministry blog or webpage. During this transition period noted above, this was the fastest way to prepare the information for you. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Did You Know ... Individuals with Disabilities Are Even More Vulnerable Right Now? reported that New Jersey Department of Health didn't consider individuals with disabilities as part of emergency COVID-19 planning (3/30/2020).

Show that the Church is different, that it doesn't forget individuals with disabilities.

HOW? While you are considering how to reach out to your parishioners who are vulnerable, remember individuals with disabilities as well. The experience of isolation is magnified for many individuals with disabilities, particularly intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is true even if they live with their families, and their families also need to be remembered.

WHAT are the concerns?
School, day programs and/or work are on hold. Not only have they lost physical opportunities to be with other people, but they may not have access to connecting via technology that many others utilize.

Regression of skills that took years to develop. Productive distance education has been more difficult to establish for them. Many parents are concerned about rumors that the Federal Department of Education will suspend IDEA, that will both undermine their education now, but also be more elusive in the future. This New York Times article goes into more detail (April 2, 2020). DeVos Weighs Waivers for Special Education. Parents Are Worried.

Most importantly, there is the "profound fear we all have that if healthcare is in any way rationed, our children will not be at the top of anyone’s list to be saved. THIS IS A PRO-LIFE ISSUE!," Mary Beth Walsh, parent of a young man with autism and peer counselor for Mom2Mom. The article above addresses lack of protective face masks and gloves, but access to healthcare services are a concern as well. Read "A Time of Unprecedented Fear for parents of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities" ( Washington Post, April 3, 2020).

Daily routines and activities have been disrupted. While they have for everyone, routines are critical for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). It helps them make sense of the world and to feel comfortable within it, knowing what to expect.

Loss of supportive relationships: therapists, aides, extended family. This increases pressure on the parents if their son or daughter is living at home.

If their loved one lives outside the parents home, they can't see them anymore. Not only do they miss them, they have no way of verifying everything is okay in their lives. Individuals with IDD are among the most vulnerable groups of people.

Technology access: they may not have direct access in their homes, either because they don't have the necessary equipment, don't know how to use it, or because their parents don't know how.

Therapists, schools and service providers are trying to establish online groups to provide opportunities for social interactions, emotional support dealing with COVID-19, and continuing their general growth and development, or at try to stem the regression that parents are witnessing.

WHAT can YOU DO? Properly used, technology is "a gift from God," says Pope Francis ( A Gift of God 1/22/2016).
  • Video visits help break up the day and provide opportunities to maintain and increase connections. The visit can be as simple as praying together, reading a story, demonstrating dog tricks, taking turns playing games everyone owns (however many people are on the visit), watching videos together through screen sharing, etc. Take your lead from the individual, their interests and abilities. If appropriate, ask their parents for suggestions.
  • Technology lessons for individuals with disabilities and/or their parents. Parents unfamiliar with Zoom and other such formats don't take advantage of opportunities for support, enrichment and enjoyment. The process of teaching them to use the technology itself reduces the sense of isolation and shows your interest and concern.
  • Youth and Young Adult Ministries: invite the teens and young adults with disabilities in your parish to participate in your online gatherings. Individuals who may struggle when physically gathered, may have specific gifts that shine online, such as animation, music, etc. Or maybe someone who has extreme social anxiety may appreciate being present and slowly getting familiar with people and being part of a group. Don't make the gathering about people with disabilities. Make the gathering about what is shared: age, interests, etc...
  • Online Coffee And. Many parishes are streaming mass. Set up a link for an online visit directly afterward for people to connect and share how their doing, and hear how you're doing. They miss you!
  • Social Outreach Ministries: Are you picking up groceries, prescriptions or other essential items? Including individuals and families with disabilities will help them know they are cared for. Obviously this is done according to safety practices.
  • Invitations to contribute: feeling needed is a big part of feeling like one belongs in a community. Possibilities: a musician playing music for virtual prayer gatherings; helping with projects based on someone's particular gifts and interests. New ideas continue to evolve the more you do this.
COVID-19 Resources for Individuals with Disabilities
and their Families
You may feel "linked out" with all the information that is flowing right now, between tracking latest updates about covid-19 and suggestions of what to do. I have three more to share with you.

Christian Horizons COVID-19 Library is an excellent collection of practical and creative resources for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

ALL BELONG Center for Inclusive Education also has many education resources, as well as pastoral considerations,

NCPD COVID-19 Library includes resources of particular considerations for individuals with different disabilities, and their families put together by The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD).
Praying The Way of the Cross - Rezando el Santo Viacrucis
Join us online or by phone to pray The Way of the Cross, followed by fellowship if you wish.

Podemos reunirnos en línea o por teléfono. Después de completar nuestra oración, habrá la oportunidad de conversar en línea con otros miembros de familia de personas con necesidades especiales si lo desea.

Registration is required for Monday evening, but the recording will be available on the ministry website later in the week at

Es necesario registrarse para el lunes por la noche, pero la grabación estará disponible en el sitio web del ministerio más adelante en la semana en
Supported Employment Information Night for Parents and Guardians
This event was originally scheduled for March 11, but was cancelled due to covid-19 developments. New Date and Time: April 23 at 7:00 PM

Did you know that only 27% of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are in the labor force within the Archdiocese of Newark, either working or unemployed? This means that approximately 73% do not have meaningful employment.  
As Catholics, we strongly believe, not only in the dignity of every person, but also in the dignity of work. Catholic Social Teaching stresses the importance that all people have the access to what is needed to live a life that is fully human. Among other things, these include education, respect, food, home, to participate in family, social and community life, and to earn a living wage. 
Businesses have also learned that individuals with IDD are productive and reliable employees. New Jersey has been an Employment First state since 2012. This means that individuals with IDD should be encouraged to seek employment first, before seeking adult day programs, which typically do not help them achieve gainful employment. While someone may say, “no,” if asked if they want a job, they almost always say, “yes” when asked if they want to earn a paycheck.

Please share information about this event with your parishioners. You never know who they know who may need guidance on supported employment. For more information and registration
Accompanying Families
We currently have two groups for parents of individuals with disabilities that have been meeting for many years at St. John the Evangelist in Bergenfield, one for moms and one for dads. Physical meetings are suspended for now. For more information about other possibilities for gathering, support and connection, contact:

And A Child Shall Lead Us
Contact Anne Masters at
All Dads of Individuals with Disabilities
Contact Deacon Jim Detura at or Anne Masters.
Remember, there are no special needs, only human needs, though some may require more intentional consideration. We All Belong. As the Body of Christ, we are called to live this out in our ordinary way of being.

Thank you for ALL you do, for ALL of God’s people!

Yours in Christ,
Anne Masters, MA, FAAIDD
Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities
Phone: 973-497-4309
The Archdiocese of Newark
 171 Clifton Avenue
 P.O. 9500
 Newark, NJ 071074