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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 have been selected to be the Fellow for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for the Word on Fire Institute. The purpose of this new initiative is to acknowledge those living with developmental and intellectual disabilities as equal members of our parish communities, and to provide resources and opportunities that will improve our understanding of the unique gifts they bring, 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 22-year-old son living with Down syndrome and understand all the uncertainties parents experience in raising a child with a disability and also the need to more fully value and incorporate them into the life of the Church.

Mark Bradford and his son Thomas

We are blessed. Our son is loved in our parish. Thomas delights in serving Mass and taking up the collection at the offertory, but not all are as fortunate.

I once met a single mom with two children—one with autism, and the other with Down syndrome—who had left the Catholic Church and joined a Protestant church. Why? Because she didn’t feel welcomed or supported in forming her children by her Catholic community.

With this Fellowship, I am personally committed to the day when that story 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.

We are in the process of publishing a prayer book that will assist those living with disabilities to better understand the Mass, the Rosary, and other Catholic prayers. We are also developing a parish resource that will assist pastors, those working in disability ministry, and others in understanding and including those with disabilities in parishes. 

I hope that you recognize the need for this vital initiative and through your generosity help this new 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.