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A Lenten Journey for All: Resources to Journey Through Lent Together

by Michael J. Boyle, Ph.D., Board of Directors, National Catholic Partnerships on Disability

Students around a cross

The Program for Inclusive Education (PIE) is grateful to Dr. Mike Boyle for his many gifts and contributions to inclusion in Catholic schools. His resume is lengthy and impressive when it comes to this mission. In addition to his many years as a professor at University of Loyola Chicago and superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Joliet, Mike has served with the National Catholic Educational Association and the National Catholic Partnership on Disability and collaborated nationwide with Catholic schools. We are grateful for his guest authorship and his insights into finding resources to support individuals with disabilities during Lent. Thank you, Mike, for sharing with the PIE audience!

~Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D.; PIE Director

Michael Boyle
Michael Boyle, Ph.D.

The increased prayer services, fasting, and almsgiving guidelines during Lent can seem overwhelming to teachers when trying to plan for students with disabilities. Discerning ways to which the whole class, as well as the whole school, can journey through Lent together often causes frustration when trying to employ strategies to support diverse learners.  Given the never-ending list of responsibilities for Catholic school teachers, it is often difficult to find time to locate resources to help facilitate, with fidelity, an observance of Lent. While there is no place for “one-stop shopping” for resources to improve accessibility in supporting students with disabilities, an important resource to consider is the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD).

NCPD promotes the ever-evolving mission to renovate and sustain ministry to and with all persons with disabilities and their families through the following initiatives:

  • Trainings, workshops, and regional meetings
  • Collection and development of resources
  • Participation in international ecclesial conferences

NCPD supports advocacy for those with disabilities and is vital in exploring the intersection of the Church and disability. Additionally, two councils support the work of NCPD:

  • NCPD Council on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works collaboratively to ensure the meaningful participation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, of all cultures, in every aspect of the life of the Church by providing resources and education for spiritual and pastoral support.
  • NCPD Council on Mental Illness and Wellness  works to accompany our brothers and sisters with mental illness and their families while assisting the Catholic community by providing resources and education for spiritual and pastoral support.

As such, exploring NCPD is a good first step when trying to find resources for persons with disabilities and the Church. Here are a few additional timesavers for teachers:

 A Teacher’s Guide to Inclusive Lenten Activities offers resources to incorporate ideas for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that address the topic of disability in the classroom.  This printable resource gives specific ideas and activities to help illuminate each of the three pillars of Lent. This resource is available in both Spanish and English.  

Ash Wednesday and Preparation for Lent contains several Lenten activities and resources to assist teachers. This also contains a social story for the reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

Although not specifically designed for students with disabilities, Catholic publishers do offer several resources for observing Lent. Many of these resources are naturally multi-sensory and may not require a great deal of adaptation. The resources from publishers include:

Ash Wednesday and other activities (Loyola Press)

15+ FREE Lent Activities and Prayers You Will Love (Sadlier)

When considering which materials to adapt and how to adapt them, it is important to consider the learning profile of the student. Consider the student’s learning strengths first. A good reflection question starts with asking yourself, “When is learning easiest?”  The second question is, “What are the factors that get in the way of the strengths?” The third question is, “What are the strategies/materials that will decrease the impact of the barriers and maximize the strength?”   

The Lenten journey is a powerful process and important journey for students and teachers. It is important to consider how to best make this process accessible for students with disabilities. As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us:

Lent is a favorable time in which to rediscover faith in God as the foundation of our lives and of the Church’s life.

This coming Lent, I will pray for all of you as we rediscover the foundation of our lives and our ministry.

The Program for Inclusive Education offers several professional learning opportunities and free resources. Applications for PIE 7 are currently open and we encourage you to apply!