Jerome LeJeune

Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellowship

Word on Fire is delighted to announce that Mark Bradford has been named the Word on Fire Institute’s Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellow.

Mark Bradford

The Fellowship is named in honor of Jerome Lejeune, the French geneticist who discovered the genetic origin of Down syndrome and committed his life to raising awareness about those with the condition.

As the Lejeune Fellow, 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.

Support the Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellowship

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.

Venerable Jerome Lejeune, pray for us!

Purpose of the Lejeune 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. Continuing the legacy of the Venerable Jerome Lejeune, the Lejeune 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 Lejeune Fellowship will also continue the legacy of Prof. Jerome Lejeune in bearing 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 Lejeune 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.

Who was Jerome Lejeune?

Jerome Lejeune (1926–1994) was the French geneticist who discovered that Down syndrome is caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Realizing the implications of his discovery—that these individuals could then be identified before birth through prenatal diagnosis and aborted—he committed his life to researching what he hoped would be a “cure.”

As he worked toward that goal, he became their outspoken advocate. He took advantage of every opportunity to assert the value of those living with disabilities in a culture that was becoming increasingly hostile to them.  ⁠

Jerome Lejeune was a faithful Catholic physician who served the Lord and his Church at every opportunity, by bearing witness to life and opposing abortion. He was a good friend of St. John Paul II, who appointed him the first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Pope Francis bestowed the title “Venerable” upon Jerome Lejeune on January 21, 2021, in recognition of his heroic virtues—a key step in the process that hopefully will one day lead to his canonization.

A Message from Bishop Robert Barron

“With this new Fellowship, the Word on Fire Institute will provide a much-needed analysis of, and contribution toward, greater inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Church and in the culture. I am excited for Mark to begin his work and find ways to both reach and collaborate with this community in our mission of evangelization.”