Monday, January 19, 2015

Opening Our Eyes to the Developmentally Disabled

There are many things with which we are unaware, once we hear and see the situation we are moved with tenderness, and the closer we approach we realize the seriousness of the issue. The handicapped problem is one of these, with many of the  handicapped we are not dealing with a grave problem, however, the developmentally handicapped is of another kind. The Peace Weekly, with these words, begins the editorial on developmental disabilities in Korean society.

Parents want to live to take care of their child; putting it another way they hope that the child dies the day before they do. It is not difficult to understand the heart breaking grief of these parents. To be responsible for these children for a few days is difficult, to be with them every moment of the day for life is even hard to imagine. According to statistics we have 200,000 with developmental disabilities; the numbers of those caring for them are many.

Interest of the government in the problems of the developmentally disabled seems to be improving. It will still take some time before we see it operational within society. Church outreach to the developmentally disabled is not extensive. Of the 230 parishes in Seoul there are only 11 with programs for the disabled. This is the reality at present for the church which should be sensitive to this problem.

Whenever these questions about the alienated and  suffering in society appear the government and the church should have concern and support. The conventional response is often one as spectator. If we understood the stress and difficulties of these families we would not respond in this way. We often have a prejudice shown to them and a lack of understanding.

" Do you know how much happiness the existence of my  child gives to those around.  'It is difficult, very difficult' they say, and in their heart they give thanks. The disability of our child shows others the importance of family and the meaning of life. I tell my child: you have a big job to help in the work of God's  salvation." These words of a mother of a child with disabilities gives us something to think about.

One parish in Seoul starting in March, will have a Mass on each Sunday afternoon for the developmentally disabled and their families. There have been Masses for the mentally impaired on occasions but this is the first time there will be a regular Sunday Mass for the developmentally disabled. After the Mass will be time for play. A program for healing  will be prepared for the  mothers. All in the diocese will be welcomed.