Washington D.C., Oct 30, 2019 / 12:44 pm
When Janice Benton was attending college in Michigan, she answered an ad in her parish bulletin that was seeking someone willing to be a catechist for children with intellectual disabilities.
That response would begin a career spanning several decades, where she would work to improve inclusion for Catholics with disabilities--a career that would lead her to speaking at the Vatican and leading the National Catholic Partnership on Disability for 15 years.
Benton, a secular Franciscan, will be retiring from her position this year and will be honored for her work with Catholics with disabilities at a banquet on Nov. 8. She spoke recently with CNA to discuss how the landscape in the Church has changed for people with disabilities since she began working in the field, and how she hopes things will continue to improve in the future.
After volunteering with children at her parish, Benton started a catechesis program to serve young adults with disabilities, and was working at a nursing home. There, she befriended a young woman with cerebral palsy. She told CNA she had wondered why a young adult was living in a nursing home, and sought out the friendship. She also met another volunteer in a catechetical program who had cerebral palsy.