In less than a month, one of my favorite organizations will be hosting its biennial conference. The National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (NAfIM) will be meeting in Huron, OH on September 4-6, 2008. The theme of the conference is “Winds of Change, Spirit of Inclusion.”
NAfIM is a Catholic membership organization of parish ministers, diocesan leaders, university professionals, parents and persons with mental retardation, intellectual disability and other developmental differences. Anyone can join. NAfIM’s vision is based on the realization that “the universal call to holiness leads us to recognize that the Body of Christ suffers when some members are not invited to full participation.” NAfIM “envisions that every person with intellectual/developmental disabilities will be welcome to full inclusion into our Catholic communities.”
I had the opportunity to attend a NAfIM conference several years ago and found the experience to be both moving and enlightening. Everyone who attends, regardless of intellectual or developmental ability, is fully welcome to participate in the workshops, the prayer services and all parts of the conference.
The keynote address this year will be given by theologian Fr. Jim Bacik and is titled, “The Parish as a Welcoming Community: Fostering the Spirit of Inclusion.” This gentle and insightful pastor is adept at helping Catholics understand and live life from a theologically grounded perspective.
General sessions include “Faith-based Care in a Bureaucratic World,” ”Gospel Drama How-to’s: Sharing the Good News and Your Gifts,” “Marriage Panel: I Didn’t Sign Up for This!” where four couples share their marriage challenges and faith journey while raising their children with developmental disabilities, and “Sibling Panel: Riding the Bus and Beyond with my Sib!” where adult brothers and sisters share their relationships with their siblings with intellectual/developmental disability. Many other workshops are also scheduled during the conference. As you can see from this sampling, the conference is a family event where many attendees come as a family.
Whether you are a parish minister, a religious educator, or a parent who’s family is touched by intellectual/developmental disability, you will find this organization and its members to be a lifeline filled with love, wisdom, joy, and a welcoming attitude that would make Jesus proud.