By Ashley Dooley Wohlgemuth

By Ashley Dooley Wohlgemuth

Only 36% of parishes have assistive listening devices for parishioners.

Click here to read the entire September 2019 newsletter

For the past 30 years, our Deaf and Disability Ministries has offered life changing services to our diocese. Among them, we’ve provided deaf interpretation of Masses, support of the diocesan Special Religious Development (SPRED) program, and the planning of Open Door Masses, designed to bring awareness of the unique gifts of our friends with disabilities and deafness. However, we know the need is growing.

According to The U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in five Americans has a disability. Despite the efforts of Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, sacramental practice in churches have seen many inconsistencies. A 2016 Special Report from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that “half of all pastors surveyed say that they need more education support and training for volunteers, staff and families who have a family member with a disability.” That same report went on to share that only 43% of parishes currently have a list of resources for people with disabilities and only 36% of parishes have assistive listening devices for parishioners.

Just last year, this ministry began to take a shift. With new leadership and a plethora of up-to-date research, we began implementing a revamped program model to further address these same issues found in parishes across the country. The overall theme of the new program is inclusivity: to fully include individuals living with disabilities in the life of the faith community. This inclusivity is not only meant to benefit those deaf or disabled parishioners, but the parish and diocese as a whole, allowing lay persons and priests to fulfill their potential.

According to Creating a Universally Designed Ministry, the Church is called to recognize that functional limitations are a normal, expected part of the living process, and a universal design should therefore be infused into all aspects of faith community.

Under this model, we will be partnering with parishes by working with pastors and parish staff to identify the needs of their parish and determine the tools necessary to fully include individuals with disabilities. The tools can range from supplying the pastor with the Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, buying large print missalettes or song books in Braille, providing busy bags for children with autism, or providing a representative on parish renovation committees to ensure the physical needs of parishioners with disabilities are represented. Along with these additions, we will continue to provide deaf interpretation at Masses and selected special events.

To lead these efforts, Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph hired Lisa Wagner-Carollo as the new Deaf and Disabilities Ministries Coordinator. Born and raised in Kansas City, Lisa has spent the past 30 years working with adults with developmental disabilities and autism through arts programming and working as a Founding Assistant of L’Arche Heartland in Overland Park.

As our program continues to grow, we ask you to pray that we may always hold before us the words found in our Vision Statement:

“A culture of communion […] recognizing the inherent dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.”

For more information on our Deaf and Disability Ministries, contact Lisa Wagner-Carollo at or (816) 659-8262.


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