On Tuesday Cardinal Hume will officially open St Joseph's Centre, The Burroughs, Hendon, as a pastoral office for the handicapped. This is the first fully equipped Catholic diocesan centre for training people to evangelise the mentally handicapped and for research into the best ways of doing this.
The Centre will be operated by a team of three. Fr David Wilson is the director; Sister Stephanie Clifford, a Sister of Marie Auxiliatrice, is particularly concerned with religious education, and Sister Colette Griffiths, of the Daughters of Charity, is responsible for the family support programme._ It has been set up in what was once part of a convent school. These former dormitories have been converted to provide the best environment possible where mentally handicapped people can be helped to grow in faith and where • the method used can be observed by people training to do this work.
Since the project is parishbased, only four groups for catechetics will meet at the centre for training and observation purposes. The team wants to help every parish in the diocese to accept their responsibility for the handicapped members in their parish cornmunity. Hence, volunteers from all parts of the Westminster diocese who want to help with the religious education of the mentally handicapped will come here for their training.
Research into this relatively unexplored area of religious education of the mentally handicapped will be encouraged, and library facilities have been provided at the centre. To promote such wider interest in and knowledge of the special catechesis required, the team have established links with Heythrop College, London University and St Mary's College, of Education, Twickenham.
St Joseph's Centre for training catechists is just one part of a much wider project concerned with caring for handicapped people and their families in the parish setting. Support for the families and the integration of the handicapped persons into parish life both complement and interact with the programme for their religious education.
Ten parishes arc already involved in this caring project initiated by the centre team as part of a long term plan. Although not officially opened, St Joseph's Centre has already been active. Training courses began in October 1976 and a seminar for priests on liturgy with the handicapped has already been held. A holiday for handicappeti children was organised last year and a second is being planned. The team maintains close contact with other parish activities throughout the diocese and with groups such as the Catholic Handicapped Children's Fellowship.
Invited guests to the opening ceremony include families with a handicapped child from groups in different parts of the diocese and also a representative from the metropolitan region of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, with which the new centre is affiliated.