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Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire ministry to serve people with Down syndrome

brunette woman with Down syndrome at the office / Shutterstock

Zoe Romanowsky - published on 10/19/22

The new Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellow will help create resources and opportunities for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

Word on Fire (WOF) has announced that they will be dedicating resources to both serve and advocate for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities — especially those with Down syndrome.

To do this, they have launched The Venerable Jerome Lejeune Fellowship to hire a new team member to lead this initiative. LeJeune was a French geneticist and pediatrician who discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome. He was a devout Catholic whose cause is being considered for sainthood.

Bishop Robert Barron, the founder of Word on Fire and currently the bishop of Winona-Rochester, told Crux that he credits Father Steve Grunow, the CEO of Word on Fire, with the idea.

“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,” Barron told Crux. “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.”

“I believe this as well,” Barron said.

An increase in prenatal testing has driven the high numbers of selective abortions of unborn persons diagnosed with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

In Iceland, almost 100% of babies with Down syndrome are aborted. High rates of abortion targeted specifically at unborn children with Down syndrome are the case in many western countries. According to the Life Institute:

In Britain, 90% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted before birth according to the National Down Syndrome Cytogenic Register.  

In Denmark, the Danish Cytogenetic Central Register, shows an average of 98% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome before birth are aborted each year. 

“How this targeting of a vulnerable population is not considered a covert exercise in eugenics is beyond me,” Barron said [in Crux]. “It has been allowed to fester and grow because people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities have not been given adequate visibility and a voice of their own. The Church should be taking responsibility and leadership in regards to this definitively pro-life issue.

WOF’s new Lejeune Fellow and his or her team will be responsible for creating new evangelization and catechetical resources and opportunities for those with developmental and cognitive disabilities. In addition, the Fellow will serve as a public advocate for that community. They will work in partnership when possible with other organizations who share that mission.

Down SyndromeNew Evangelization
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