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National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (NAFIM)


The National Apostolate for Inclusion Ministry (NAfIM), formerly the National Apostolate for the Mentally Retarded (NAMR), is an organization dedicated to including mentally challenged persons in ecclesial life. The new designation took effect in 1997. In the 1960s society at large began to observe a changing consciousness toward those with mental disabilities. Catholics began forging an idea for a national support network. In 1961, interested parties gathering at an Inter-American CCD Congress in Dallas, Texas, formed a core group and, after a series of meetings, a constitution was later approved in West Hartford, Connecticut (1967). In August 1970, also in West Hartford, the first NAMR conference took place. The first president was Reverend Matthew M. Pasaniello of New Jersey.

During the 1970s, NAMR incorporated, established an office at Trinity College, Washington, D.C., and was included in the Official Catholic Directory. It also changed its name in 1974 to the National Apostolate with Mentally Retarded Persons (NAMRP), a name it kept until 1992, when it was renamed as the National Apostolate with People with Mental Retardation (NAPMR). Meanwhile, the organization endeavored to create inclusive ministry across the country by collaborating with like-minded groups.

In accordance with the United States Bishops' pastoral letters on people with disabilities, NAfIM seeks to witness "to the Good News that all persons are created in God's image and likeness" and that the mentally retarded share "virtues like courage, patience, perseverence, compassion, and sensitivity that should serve as an inspiration to all Christians." Therefore, the principle purposes of the NAfIM are: (1) to promote the full incorporation of persons with mental retardation within the life of the Church; (2) to enhance the growth of persons with mental retardation and the entire Church through the prophetic role of persons with mental retardation; (3) to take steps in both the Church and the community at large, on a national and local level, to bring before the public the spiritual, interpersonal, and communal gifts of persons with mental retardation; (4) to foster quality evangelization, catechesis, sacramental preparation, and participation, and ongoing spiritual development of persons with mental retardation; and (5) to provide a forum for those involved in direct ministry with persons with mental retardation.

At the level of education, NafIM has sought to develop appropriate curriculum materials with the goal of mainstreaming children with mental disabilities into Catholic school settings.

Annually, there is a membership conference in various sections of the United States. The membersparents, teachers, chaplains, nurses, administrators, DREs, volunteers, and professionals from other areasattend workshops, liturgies, and lectures which highlight key areas and future trends in the field of catechesis and mental retardation. All who participate in the spiritual, mental, or physical development of the mentally retarded are eligible for membership. NAfIM publishes a quarterly newsletter and provides consulting services. The NAfIM is presently based in Riverdale, Maryland.

Bibliography: r. baron and d. senior, Opening Hearts, Minds, and Doors: Embodying the Inclusive and Vulnerable Love of God (Chicago 1999). national council of catholic bishops, Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities (Washington, D.C. 1995); Welcome and Justice for Persons with Disabilities: A Framework of Access and Inclusion (Washington, D.C. 1999).

[p. j. hayes/

j. moloney]

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