By Grace Ostuni
On Feb. 13, the Rev. Johnathan St. Andre, TOR, vice president of Franciscan Life, spoke on the Church’s view of individuals with disabilities.
St. Andre began by stating that humanity has begun to separate those who look or act differently from what most people see every day. He added that society needs to rethink what it means to be a human being.
St. Andre stated that people have value in who they are, not in what they accomplish or how they function.
“Often persons with disabilities are defined by what they cannot do…but what we don’t often stress is the power of the abilities of who they are and what they bring to us,” said St. Andre.
St. Andre stressed that individuals with disabilities profoundly shape the lives of those who do not have disabilities.
St. Andre talked about how his youngest sister has Down syndrome. He told the audience how his sister had the best memory in their family and what a gift that could be.
“Individuals with disabilities remind us that we are all a mess. We are all individuals that have our strengths and our weaknesses and our challenges,” said St. Andre.
St. Andre said he did not think he would be a friar without the influence of his sister.
He added that Christians need to learn how to move from a ‘them’ perspective to an ‘us’ perceptive because the Church invites everyone to welcome people in their differences.
“It is a gift to be able to interact with each other,” said St. Andre.
The talk was hosted by Breaking Barriers, a club which advocates for students with disabilities on campus.
Camden Flater, vice president of the Breaking Barriers club, said of the event, “We did this to raise more of an awareness of disabilities on campus, so that students can see that it’s not just from a person with disability perspective but that it’s an actual Catholic perspective. So everyone knows that they can do something to get involved and to help others.”