What Would Pope Francis Do? – By Jeff Katz

pope-francis-600By: Jeff Katz – January, 2014

I may be a Jewish guy but I notched a few credits at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, so I am familiar with the Jesuits’ worldwide focus on helping the disabled. I’m only an Eagle by marriage, but I’ve got to weigh in on something happening at the Jesuit run Boston College.

For forty three years, BC has operated the “Campus School”. The school’s mission is to serve disabled students. By all accounts it has succeeded beyond every expectation. The education majors who volunteer there have shared their enthusiasm with the disabled students who in turn have thrived.

While the student body at the Campus School is not particularly large, they are well served and welcomed with open arms on the Chestnut Hill campus by BC students and faculty alike. The only folks who appear less than hospitable seem to be members of the college administration who are now planning to shutter the school and transfer the students to a hospital a few miles away.

My ten year old daughter has a wide assortment of developmental delays and disabilities. I know firsthand that the strength of any special education program comes from the heartfelt commitment of the staff. Teachers, therapists and social workers are more than cogs in the educational machine. They are loving and passionate advocates for the children in their care. They cheer each and every success no matter how small. Students and parents alike cherish this special relationship.

Many of us have tried to educate the larger population about our kids and their circumstances. These children have different abilities and a multitude of challenges, but they need to be in a supportive school with staff who see them as innately valuable individuals. What they don’t need is to be shunted aside from the world of classrooms and playgrounds to a sterile, clinical hospital setting.

Pope Francis, the first Jesuit to ascend to the papacy has time and again talked about the need to embrace those with special needs. He specifically expressed his frustration with our society which, he said, works to “hide physical fragility.” Who amongst us was not touched by the photo of Pope Francis warmly embracing Dominic Gondreau, an eight year old boy who has cerebral palsy?

I hope and pray that the real needs of the precious children at the Campus School are likewise embraced by the BC administration.

I wonder, would Pope Francis close the school? How about Ignatius of Loyola or Francis Xavier?

Follow Jeff Katz on twitter @jeffkatzshow and facebook.com/radiokatz