Ausnew Home Care | How a blind nun and her school for children with disabilities gave me a new way of seeing the world

How a blind nun and her school for children with disabilities gave me a new way of seeing the world

#TravelingWithADisability disability Disability Employment Services disability law disability stereotypes DisabilitySupport intellectual disability Living With a Disability NDIS NDIS Aged Care Approved NDIS and Personal Care NDIS Plan no ‘dis’ in disability. Personal Care Services under NDIS Seeing the ability in disability umbrella of disability

On a warm, Saturday afternoon a nun greets me at the door of her home. I approach the gate, framed by a symphony of floral hues. She waits on the street but is not alone. Beside her is a dog with a pearl-coloured coat. She holds a white cane and her gaze is unfocused. 

“Sister Helen!”, I call. Her face immediately erupts into a smile and her head tilts towards me. But her eyes never quite meet mine. As we walk, she makes a simple request. “Satara, may I take your arm?” As she places her hand gently on the upper part of my arm, I fumble to steer her in the right direction and, with determined concentration, attempt to walk at the appropriate pace. Sister Helen — a nun of the Dominican Order — is both blind and mostly deaf.

How do blind people perceive clouds? How do people who are deaf understand the beauty of music? These are the kinds of philosophical questions which drove Sister Helen’s involvement in the education of those with disabilities, like my own sister. Having joined the order in 1965, Sister Helen says the Dominican Sisters have always enjoyed traditions of singing. She taught herself music and is an accomplished cellist.

“I don’t have a good voice, but I have a true voice”, she says, as her guide dog, Freddy, sniffs my toes under the table. 

The mood shifts, however, as she admits that with cochlear implants she can no longer hear “music” as “music”. “If I sing in my head, it is life giving. But I don’t physically listen to music anymore — it’s too painful, I miss it too much.”

Sister Helen leading children in song

Sister Helen leads children in song at St. Lucy’s, with her dog, Freddy, at her feet. (Photo: Karuka Uthayakumaran)

Sister Helen is an active member of my sister’s school community. Founded in 1938 by the nuns of the Dominican Order, the school was established under the patronage of Saint Lucy, a Roman Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic persecution, then venerated as a saint in Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Most aptly, she is also the traditional protectress of the blind. The school developed from solely being a school for the blind, to one for students with a wide range of disabilities — including mild to severe intellectual disabilities, autism, and sensory impairments.

The Dominican Order has long had a tradition of supporting students with disabilities. South Australia is home to Our Lady of La Vang — a specialist education facility for students with intellectual disabilities, stepped in the Dominican and Josephite traditions. The Chair of Dominican Education, in partnership with the Bishop of Broken Bay, have committed Catholic Schools Broken Bay to expand their range of services and support for students with a disability.

Source: ABC

Older Post Newer Post