Contributors Learning to love like him

Shifting from inclusion to a sense of belonging

Joshua Ruoff is the lead consultant for the archdiocesan special-needs ministry. He can be reached by email at:

by Joshua Ruoff

October is Respect Life Month.

Have you ever stopped and thought just how broad of a statement “respect life” is? There are so many ways that we as Catholics respect all life.

Advocating for an end to abortion and respecting the dignity of the elderly are important things that we must continue to fight for. But what are we doing to help the others that are perhaps left on the margins?

The special-needs ministry and the deaf ministry offices of the archdiocese have worked together and have created an accessibility checklist that will be available as a resource for parishes to evaluate how their parish currently is helping individuals with special needs to feel that they belong to their parish family.

This list of course covers the basics of physical accessibility. But perhaps most importantly, this checklist encourages parishes to look at what they are doing to ensure that those with special needs are included in their parish social and faith formation activities.

This checklist is an encouragement to parishes to go above and beyond the minimum accessibility and inclusion “requirements” so that when we say we respect all life, we really mean all life.

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus told us that “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Making changes to allow for total belonging is not an easy ask and will require us all to humbly step outside of our own shoes and see our parish life through the eyes of someone who perhaps has special needs.

Do they have the opportunity to experience the love of God and feel a sense of belonging at our parishes in the same manner as those without special needs?

We all have special needs. We all desire to feel a sense of belonging and God desires us all to feel his love. Are we as the Catholic church of northeast Kansas doing all we can to allow everyone to feel a sense of belonging? Most importantly, are we doing all we can to help those souls grow closer to Jesus and heaven?

When we step outside of ourselves and help those around us grow closer to Jesus, we ourselves grow closer to him because we have experienced his love through those we have encountered.

I encourage you to reach out to your parish and learn about the steps it is taking to help  parish families feel a sense of belonging. To access the accessibility checklist, visit the website at:

For assistance with resources for your parish or if you have questions about making improvements at your parish, please contact the special-needs ministry of the archdiocese at (913) 647-3054 or by email at:

About the author

Joshua Ruoff

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