By Hannah Brockhaus
.- In her own words, Bridget Brown is “a self-advocate, an inclusion advocate, an actress… and a young woman with Down syndrome.” She also loves her life and wants others to know that each and every person is precious.
“The world needs to know that I don’t ‘suffer’ from Down syndrome,” she wrote in a letter to Pope Francis. “I have a full and wonderful life, and I am filled with joy to be alive.”
“I absolutely love my life.”
Brown met Pope Francis Oct. 21 as part of a Vatican-sponsored conference dedicated to catechesis for those with intellectual disabilities.
Titled “Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church,” the conference took place Oct. 20-22 at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome.
Brown told CNA Oct. 20 that she was very excited to meet the Pope with her parents. She was also looking forward to speaking with him about “the right to life of babies with Down syndrome.”
Tragically, children with Down syndrome are often aborted, she said, pointing to the example of an August article from CBS News declaring that Iceland is “eradicating Down syndrome” through abortion.
“People with Down syndrome are so precious,” she said. “I love babies, and I especially love babies with Down syndrome.”
In a letter to Pope Francis, she said that her heart breaks when she thinks that she might be part of the last generation of people with Down syndrome and that “the world will never again benefit from our gifts.”
Brown noted that people with disabilities are often the first to be killed during genocides, and observed that Adolph Hitler’s mass killings began with the murder of disabled children.
“It seems to me we are doing the same thing to children with disabilities today in our country,” she said.
Even though Brown finds this to be discouraging at times, she said she still has hope, praying for those who think people with disabilities don’t have the right to live.
“I believe in the sacred dignity of all people. And most people I know with disabilities can lead full and productive lives, just like me,” she said.
The right to life of people with disabilities should never be disregarded, Brown told CNA. “God said…that we have a purpose, no matter who we are. It’s not right to exclude or kill anybody, because we are part of the human race.”
Quoting Meister Eckhart, a medieval Dominican theologian, she said, “If the only prayer I say in my life is ‘thank you,’ that would be enough.”
Brown, who spoke at the conference Oct. 21, noted that she attended to help promote inclusion in parishes, hoping they will open their doors “to allow people with disabilities to be included in the Church.”
She hopes people walk away from the conference with a deeper realization that “people with disabilities have a purpose.”
More than that, she wants to move the conversation about people with disabilities beyond inclusion.
It’s about more than just the right to survive, she said, but about being able “to dwell in the possibilities, to have fun and full, exciting lives,” just like anyone else.