THE efforts being made to provide religious education for handicapped children, the problems involved and the need to improve existing facilities were all dealt with by Fr. William Byrne, director of Salford CatecheticaI Centre, in an address to a conference on the subject on Saturday.
Fr. Byrne told the conference, held at the Cenacle Convent in Manchester, that every effort must be made to help handicapped children develop their potential to the fullest.
After examining the work done in various countries, he suggested that in this country there was a pressing need for a more co-ordinattx1 approach to the problem, especially at diocesan level.
GROWING CONCERN He spoke of the need for more specialist teachers, more literature dealing with the problems involved, and courses geared for the training of religious teachers.
Already there were many specialist teachers in the field of religious education and growing concern was being shown for this work at national level on the Board of Catechetical Directors. There was a national framework established in the Catholic Handicapped Children's Fellowship.
"It is not beyond our sights, especially at diocesan level, to see what is being done in our midst and to consolidate and develop the various activities. But a diocesan policy must not replace individual work but build on it," he said.
Fr. Byrne said he was dubious of the value of drawing up a syllabus of religious education for the handicapped. This must of necessity be adapted to the needs and abilities of the individual child. Nevertheless, some simple outline must be offered.
He suggested: "Might it not be that the very symbolic nature of the liturgy is more suited to the learning of the handicapped child?
"The liturgy is concrete, it is made to be seen, heard and touched. It appeals to our senses. How many things are thus expressed in a language a mentally deficient child understands more easily than the abstract words of the catech ism?"
In conclusion, Fr. Byrne said he felt there was a pressing need for a specialist working within the diocese to give help and advice to the bishop and the priests on the readiness of handicapped children to receive Holy Communion. At present there were too many variations from parish to parish. Mrs. Cecilia Power, secretary of Salford Catholic Handicapped Children's Fellowship, said: "No matter how feebly such people cling to life. mentally or physically, they are entitled to all that the Church can offer according to their ability.
SPECIAL SCHOOLS "If we can communicate at all, in any way, with a handicapped child. we must also help to bring him, even in the smallest way, to the knowledge of God.
"We must earnestly concern ourselves with what the child can do. We must rid ourselves of the old concept of classifying the child by what he can not do. We must endeavour to cultivate that little bit which he has and not discard him for the greater percentage of his 'have nots'."
Mrs. Power said that work had started on building the first specially designed school in the diocese to cater for the handicapped child. At present some 33 per cent. of Catholic handicapped children were in special schools but. except where there chanced to be a Catholic member of staff, no attempt was made to provide religious teaching.
Ordination service all in English
THE Ordination Service for Fr. Brendan Carrick at Wigton. Cumberland on Sunday was the first in the Lancaster diocese to he carried out entirely in English. He was also the first priest to be ordained in the town.
Fr. Carrick, who is 26, is the elder son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Carrick. of Union Street, Wigton. He had flown from Rome for the ordination at St. Cuthbert's Church, which was carried out by Bishop Foley.
He was educated at St. Cuthbert's School, Wigton and Austin Friars. and was at Clare College, Cambridge, and Dublin before continuing his studies at St. Patrick's College and the Gregorian University in Rome, where he has been for the past four years.