Earlier this month, nonprofit global media apostolate Word on Fire Catholic Ministries announced the launch of its Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellowship program.
According to Crux Now, the fellowship was created with the goal of increasing inclusivity in religious institutions, in order to help Word on Fire “advocate for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, especially those with Down syndrome,” both in religious and global communities. The program directors are currently seeking two individuals – one of whom will be an individual with Down syndrome or another intellectual disability, who will work together to “[raise] awareness about the indispensable role people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities have in the Church and in the culture” and “advocate and model the pro-life teachings of the Church.”
When asked about the genesis of the idea, Word on Fire founder Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester shared that it originated with Father Steve Grunow, Word on Fire’s CEO.
“For a long time, [Grunow] has expressed his concern that WOF create and provide catechetical and evangelization resources for people with cognitive or developmental disabilities. He firmly believes that people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities should be prepared for evangelization and mission on behalf of the church, and that their witness to the Lord Jesus is a gift that the church has for far too long underestimated and unappreciated.”
Regarding what inspired the WOF team to launch the program this year, Barron mentioned that his team is concerned about how increased access to prenatal genetic testing is resulting in an increase in abortions of unborn children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.
“We would like a person with Down syndrome to serve as a public witness to the reality of this hidden genocide through abortion and the targeting of a population of people with death simply because some have come to believe that the lives of a person with Down syndrome or with a cognitive and intellectual disability are not worth living… The church should be taking responsibility and leadership in regards to this definitively pro-life issue.”
If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellowship, you can learn more about it here.