Peter Nguyen Thach at a special Mass held for parishioners with physical disabilities
Hundreds of Catholics with disabilities receive material and spiritual support from a Church initiative that seeks to better integrate them into the community of the faithful and provide sustainable incomes for their daily lives. Teresa Le Thi Lan, who has endured paralysis of both her legs since her birth, says she pays regular visits to other parishioners with disabilities as a member of the Apostolic Group of Disabled People in Da Nang. Lan, 34, who embraced Catholicism last October, said she was given a wheelchair, sewing machine and vocational training by the group. “I am deeply grateful to this … group that has changed my life for the better,” she said. Lan is one of 200 people with physical disabilities that comprise the Apostolic Group. Peter Nguyen Thach, who lost his right leg as a child during the Vietnam War, founded the Apostolic Group in 1998 with three others to help disabled people overcome challenges in their daily lives. “We are very happy that our group includes Buddhists, Protestants and people without faith who pay weekly visits to one another and gather twice a month at Da Nang Cathedral’s hall to share God’s Word as well as their joys and sorrows,” Thach said. Thach said members donate 2,000 dong (US$0.10) per day and use the money to assist the five poorest people in the parish to find a means of earning a living. He added that 14 non-Catholic members have since converted. Three local priests and two nuns provide support for the group, while eight laypeople assist in the transport of disabled parishioners to Sunday Mass, he said.