Office of Special Needs Ministries

Purpose statement

The Office of Special Needs Ministries serves all people of the Diocese of Arlington by promoting a culture of welcome and inclusion to facilitate meaningful participation in our Faith Communities, especially for those with disabilities and their families.

Who we serve

We serve persons with disabilities and their families, as well as those who seek to serve and educate those with disabilities.

What we do

  • Promote awareness and acceptance of persons with disabilities within the Diocese of Arlington
  • Encourage participation in the parish faith community
  • Provide Faith Formation to people with disabilities
  • Provide sacramental preparation
  • Support families of people with disabilities
  • Support Directors of Religious Education (DREs)
  • Advocate for personal and family needs
  • Evangelize to share our faith
  • Provide opportunities for people with disabilities to belong to small faith communities such as Special Religious Development (SPRED)
  • Provide sign language services to the Deaf Community
  • Support and assist priests and deacons who serve people with disabilities


The Office of Special Needs Ministries serves the people of the Diocese of Arlington by promoting a culture of inclusion for people with disabilities and their families within all aspects of parish life.  We assist parishes with providing education, guidance, and support for those with disabilities and all who seek to strengthen and deepen their faith.


Saint Margaret-of-Castello-480x778
The blessed Margaret of Citta di Castello. Etching by J and J Klauber. Work ID: frwa5x38.


Specific Ministries

SPRED (Special Religious Development)

SPRED (Special Religious Development) is a program in which persons who are developmentally disabled come together with a spiritual friend/catechist to share a one-on-one relationship and form with others a small faith community. SPRED fosters and nourishes spiritual and personal growth by helping those with developmental disabilities discover God's action and presence in their lives. SPRED gives developmentally disabled parishioners an opportunity for celebration and worship and prepares them for the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist) and Penance (Confession). SPRED serves age groups from children to adults (6-10 years old, 11-16 years old, 17-21 years old, and 22 years and older).

Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The Mission of the Ministry for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is to serve those persons who were born Deaf, or later became deafened or Hard of Hearing with their particular spiritual needs. The ministry works in harmony with the overarching mission of the diocese and also specifically with the Office of Faith Formation. This ministry, started at the inception of the diocese, has a purpose of initially providing the Deaf community with the opportunity to be educated in their Catholic faith through the Faith Formation Program. The Deaf are prepared for the sacraments, receive the sacraments and the opportunity to actively socialize and participate in the life of the Church, through the medium of sign. Interpreting is available for baptisms and the other sacraments, masses at our parish centers, meetings with parish priests and other occasions as Deaf community members seek to enhance their Catholic faith.  More recently, closed captioning has been added for the Mass at St. Theresa's parish, Ashburn for those who prefer a captioned form of communication.

Religious instruction is available in smaller classes with the catechetical curriculum for young Deaf students, and for adults as well, there are offerings of various themes related to different aspects of our faith. Whether the need focuses on education, on pastoral care, or the opportunity to expand the use of sign to share in the conversation about our beliefs, there are sign classes available for family members and other interested persons. The interpreting services also support and facilitate religious activities. The outreach program connects the Deaf with other spiritual activities in and outside the diocese so Deaf members have access to grow in knowledge and in spirit. 

From baptismal initiation into the Church, until Christian burial, the ministry for the Deaf has as its goal to educate and serve the spiritual needs of Deaf members of the diocese so they can participate and develop in their faith to reach their full spiritual potential. This potential for the Deaf, as with the other communities blessed with their own unique gifts, is to become the gifted and called members of our diocese that these diverse members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community are meant to be.