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Fellowship for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

An Opportunity of Love and Faith

Dear Friends,

My name is Mark Bradford, and I am honored to serve as the Word on Fire Institute’s Fellow for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This fellowship has two primary goals out of which flows a lot of activity: (1) to support the Church’s pro-life message, especially where the culture of death threatens the lives of those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and (2) to develop resources and opportunities that will improve our understanding of the unique gifts those living with disabilities bring to the Church, and enable them to grow more fully in faith and into the intimate communion of love that Christ wills for us all.

My wife and I are parents of a twenty-two-year-old son living with Down syndrome and understand all the uncertainties parents experience in raising a child with a disability. Fortunately, our parish and community of friends have always been supportive and welcoming to our son. He has served at the altar for several years and is employed in a job he enjoys. I know that not everyone is as fortunate.

Mark Bradford and his son Thomas

In my position, I still hear of difficult experiences families have—even in trying to convince their pastor to allow their child to receive First Holy Communion, and especially to be educated with their peers in a Catholic school.

With this fellowship, I am personally committed to the day when those stories will never be told again. This fellowship is our opportunity to work together to make certain that those living with disabilities are not forgotten in the Church. They deserve to live with us in full communion, where their unique gifts are realized in the Body of Christ. With them, we too can grow together in a more perfect love.

Soon, a prayer book for adults with intellectual disabilities will be available through our Word on Fire Bookstore. We are also working on a book that will serve as a resource for parishes in helping pastors and their staff to better understand how to serve persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in their parishes. It will be a comprehensive source of support from various professionals working in disability in the Church.

Within the Word on Fire Institute’s Communities, we have a community specially dedicated to the topic of intellectual and developmental disabilities where we can discuss things like inclusive Catholic education, disability and human dignity, prenatal diagnosis, and provide support to families. We even now have a virtual prayer community where those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities can come together regularly to pray, develop friendships, and experience spiritual camaraderie.

I hope that you recognize the need for this vital initiative and through your generosity help this project to find a secure place in the Word on Fire outreach to those both inside and outside of the Church. Remember, Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for him. May God bless you for your generosity.

In Christ,

Mark Bradford

Support the Fellowship for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Help support this Fellowship’s vital work of inviting our brothers and sisters with intellectual and developmental disabilities into the Church’s evangelization efforts.

This is an ambitious endeavor, but it’s also an exciting opportunity to raise awareness, build community, learn, and grow as a people of faith.

Mark Bradford

In this new role, Bradford’s mission will be raising awareness about the indispensability of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Church and in the culture. Bradford will advocate and model the pro-life teachings of the Church, especially as they concern people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“As our culture grows further away from understanding the true source of human life and dignity, it is incumbent upon the Church to stand boldly for those that society views as the least among us,” Bradford said. “There is no better platform for this advocacy than Word on Fire. I’m honored to be a part of this incredible ministry.” 

Throughout his career, Bradford has excelled at facilitating conversations in the areas of education, disability, medical research, bioethics, the arts, and advocacy. Prior to joining the Word on Fire Institute, he was the executive director at the Regina Academies, and he previously served as the founding president of the American branch of the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which is based in Paris.

Purpose of the Fellowship

Studies suggest that in the US, around 74% of expectant parents who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to abort their child. This Fellow will serve as a public advocate for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the broader culture through asserting the Church’s pro-life teachings on human life and dignity.

The Fellowship will also bear witness to the Church and culture about the necessity of integrating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as valued and participating members in society and especially in the Church’s apostolic work and mission. ⁠

A central task of this Fellowship is to create and develop evangelization and catechetical resources, materials, and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to establish a community of support for families whose loved ones are living with an intellectual or developmental disability within the broader Word on Fire community.

The Fellow’s first task is to utilize his or her requisite knowledge and experience to assist Word on Fire in its efforts to hire a person with an intellectual and/or developmental disability to serve as a second Fellow.

The two Fellows will work together on developing evangelization and catechetical materials that are age appropriate, beautifully designed, helpful, and relevant, as well as evangelically and catechetically rich.