On November 30, the Vatican held an online meeting of pastoral ministers who work for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the life of the Church. Representatives from nine episcopal conferences participated: Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, United States, Argentina and Chile. These are the only countries in which there is an office dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities within the ecclesial structure at the national level.
Rosa Labbé, a longtime parishioner of San Roque Parish in Peñalolén, Chile, which is run by the Congregation of Holy Cross, participated in the meeting as part of the Subcommission of Catechesis for people with disabilities of the Episcopal Conference of Chile. The meeting, convened by the Vatican's Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, gave her the opportunity to share her experience in this pastoral ministry in the context of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Since 2011, Rosa has coordinated the pastoral of Special Catechesis in San Roque, helping prepare people with disabilities to receive the sacraments. Then she took on the coordinator role for this ministry in the Deanery of Peñalolén and then in the Eastern Zone of Santiago. For several years she worked with the Archdiocese and the Episcopal Conference in the preparation and realization of the national summer formation camps for this catechesis; and also guided the preparation of the publication of books of Special Catechesis for the CECh (Education and Training Center of Chile).
This year Rosa was named Chile's delegate for this meeting which was organized by the Vatican, so "that the voice of people with disabilities is heard with due attention."
After the meeting, Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello, Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity Family and Life, sent a letter to Rosa, which said in part: "The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life has decided to include among its priorities the Pastoral Care of Persons with Disabilities. This decision was made in response to the requests we received from our members and consultors during our first Plenary Assembly, which made us aware of the need for persons with disabilities to receive full ecclesial and civil citizenship (cf. Enc. Fratelli Tutti, 98)."
The Special Catechesis in San Roque Parish is part of a broader work with people with disabilities developed and overseen by Holy Cross in the District of Chile-Peru. Yancana Huasy, a non-profit institution located in San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru, works to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families. All of this work is inspired by Holy Cross's concern for "the dignity of every creature as a beloved child of God" (Constitutions 2:15).