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Bishop Burbidge: ‘Inclusion Is Not Optional’ for Children With Down Syndrome

In 2019, with the help of Vatican News, the world learned all about the first religious community of women with Down syndrome. The Little Sisters Disciples of the Lamb located in central France is the first and only religious institute with a rule of life adapted for people with Down syndrome.

Finding a vocation in life is typically a long journey for some, but the seeds are planted early — something Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, takes to heart, especially with the mission he is carrying out to make all those with special needs feel included and find purpose.

Speaking to the Register in anticipation of March 21, Down Syndrome Awareness Day, Bishop Burbidge said this work is inherent to us because “all of us are children of God. And so for Catholics, because of that reality, inclusion is not optional. We must make sure we welcome all people, all people without exception, because every human person needs to feel included and connected.”

Bishop Burbidge has hosted several listening sessions over the last few years, drilling into the deep needs of the community, reaching out to the peripheries, and developing catechetical programs designed for children with Down syndrome and other special needs. And it extends even further: welcoming students with special needs into the classroom as well as opportunities for employment. “And that’s part of the dignity that is ours as a child of God,” Bishop Burbidge elaborated.

“So when we make sure that this is part of our ministry, we’re just living the Gospel and the example of Jesus, who embraced all children and all people without exception.” It is a sense of purpose that is so important in building a culture of life, making us “fully alive as human persons,” Bishop Burbidge emphasized.

Sadly, with the scourge of abortion and prenatal testing, many babies with Down syndrome are extinghished before given a chance at life. Iceland touts the fact that Down syndrome has been eradicated, considering children with special needs to be a burden. “It’s a horrific train [of exclusion] that were seeing around the world — and reality: that a person’s worth is decided on their intellectual or emotional, physical abilities,” Bishop Burbidge said.

“That’s not where a person’s worth and value, the treasure, the gift that they are,” comes from, he underscored. “No, that comes from being a child of God. That’s God’s child. And for us to dare to say a person is worthy to survive, or whose life should be celebrated based on other factors? It’s a complete disregard for the Creator.”

Read more at National Catholic Register 

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