Bishop Paul Hendricks celebrated the publication of Diana Klein’s new book, Symbols of Faith, at Vaughan House on 19 March, the solemnity of St. Joseph. The book was developed and trialled in the Diocese in collaboration with St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre in Hendon, whose principal aim is to support families who embrace members with learning disabilities in parishes.

Symbols of Faith is a new resource for the faith formation and sacramental preparation of people with learning disabilities. So often, parents, priests and catechists do not know how to go about passing on our faith to them and helping them to develop a relationship with God. And too often there is an assumption that they cannot receive the sacraments because they don’t understand enough – but this is not true.

In the foreword to the book, Cardinal Vincent quotes St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: ‘The members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’ (1 Corinthians 12:22). This short passage of scripture, he says, proclaims a powerful and important message. As St Paul says, ‘they seem to be weaker’ – and the misperception of those with learning disabilities is revealed as just that, misrepresentation. He asks us to recognise their indispensability and to ensure that they have a rightful place in the very heart of the Church. 

Symbols of Faith offers creative insights and ideas, which are in keeping with Church teaching. It recognises the gifts and talents of people with learning disabilities. The materials are adaptable, flexible and appropriate to their ability, to help them know the person of Christ, who leads us to the Father through the Holy Spirit. There is a CD included with the book, which provides additional resources and unlimited use of activity sheets to complement the sessions which can be adapted to suit the age and ability of the person being catechised.

Parents hear at the baptism of their children that they will be their first and the best catechists. Priests are told at their ordination that they are the ‘educators of the faith’. They are told that they must provide formation in the parish for the parents and for catechists, who will support the parents and the priests. The aim of these materials is to provide the vital resources they need to do just this.