St Bartholomew School

470 Ryders Lane, East Brunswick, NJ 08816
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Community Building & Fellowship Ministries
Ministry for Persons with Disabilities

Our mission is to seek to build awareness of the accessibility needs of people with disabilities, and to bring about their full inclusion in all aspects of our parish.

Full inclusion of people with disabilities will create benefits for all members of our parish community. “The American with Disabilities Act has changed the face of America, moving us toward a more ‘accessible,’ livable society. People who are blind, deaf, have an intellectual/physical disability or who use wheelchairs have done a lot to change our society and our environment—and the changes intended to open society for them have had a spin-off benefit for all of us. Their ideas and their insistence on being included are building a more accommodating landscape, a more easily navigated environment, a more welcoming society for us all.” The different accommodations that have been installed at St. Bartholomew for our members with disabilities reflect this universal access, and create benefits for all members of our parish community.

Rev. Bill Atkinson, OSA

William Edward Atkinson was born on January 4, 1946, in Philadelphia, one of three sons and four daughters of Allen Atkinson and Mary Connelly. He attended St. Alice's Elementary School and Monsignor Bonner High School, and upon graduation, entered the Augustinian Order. He spent a year as a postulant at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, and then entered the Villanova Province's novitiate of Our Mother of Good Counsel in New Hamburg, New York, on September 6, 1964.

The following February 22, 1965, Bill and several other novices headed out to enjoy an afternoon of tobogganing after a fresh snowfall had covered the novitiate grounds. The toboggan, with Bill seated in the lead position, veered from its path and hit a tree, leaving Bill almost completely paralyzed from the neck down. Amazingly, he survived the accident, and following many months of extensive rehabilitation, expressed his desire to continue as an Augustinian. He began a second novitiate year at Villanova, PA. in 1969 and professed simple vows on July 20, 1970. A care team of friars assisted Bill during his time in formation, and for many years beyond, as he moved about with the use of his motorized wheelchair. He pronounced solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience on July 20, 1973, and continued on to complete his years of college and theological studies at Villanova University. With a special dispensation from Pope Paul VI, John Cardinal Krol ordained him to the priesthood at his home parish of St. Alice in Upper Derby, PA., on February 2, 1974. He celebrated his first Mass the following day at the Field House of Villanova University.

From 1975 until 2004, almost thirty years, Fr. Bill was stationed at St. Joseph's Friary, Drexel Hill, PA., where he taught at Monsignor Bonner High School, was assistant school chaplain, senior class retreat coordinator, moderator of the football team, and director of the after-school and Saturday detention program. He was known for his wonderful sense of humor, and was recognized as an excellent teacher, encouraging moderator, and compassionate confessor. Fr. Bill's ministry extended far beyond the classroom and halls of Monsignor Bonner, however. He was often called upon to counsel the infirm, to preach retreats to various groups of youth and to bring the healing power of the sacraments to family, friends and strangers alike. Fr. Bill was the recipient of many awards and acknowledgements, among them an honorary doctorate from Villanova University in 2000.

In 2004, Fr. Bill was moved to the Health Care Unit of Saint Thomas Monastery at Villanova, due to his declining physical condition. He passed over to the Lord on Friday afternoon, September 15, 2006, surrounded by those who loved and cared for him. His funeral liturgy was celebrated on Tuesday, September, 19, 2006, in Saint Thomas of Villanova Church. The friar-homilist for the occasion noted, "He believed that God would provide what he needed, and he realized that God was with him always. He was a living example of St. Paul's words: 'It is in weakness that I have found my strength.'" Fr. Bill was buried the following morning in the Augustinian section of Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, PA.

Fr. Bill's reputation of holiness, already present during his lifetime, increased greatly after his death. The cause for his canonization was opened by the Augustinian Order on September, 15, 2015, in Philadelphia, PA.

A Prayer

Blessed are you,
Father of life, source of goodness and peace,
in whom all creation has its origin
and by whom every person is loved.

In Father Bill Atkinson
your mercy and compassion were made manifest
as he brought solace to the suffering
and hope to the needy.

By carrying the cross of life faithfully
he proclaimed confidence in your love
and conformity to your will,
and so drew others to you
and to the generous gifts of your grace.

Hear our prayers
which we offer through his intersession
so that as your work continues to unfold among us
it may bring honor to you,
comfort to your people
and, according to your will, glory to your servant.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Treating People with Respect and Dignity

Hearing Assistance Devices are available in the rear of the Church. What we say can be very powerful! Our community seeks to treat all people, including people with disabilities, with respect and dignity. However, sometimes we may be confused or unaware of how to respectfully discuss another’s disability. Each week we will post some information on treating persons with disabilities with respect and dignity. Here is our first suggestion

Always try to put the person first. Be aware of using old and inaccurate descriptors, which perpetuate negative stereotypes and reinforce an incredibly powerful attitudinal barrier.* This is not about political correctness, but about treating individuals with disabilities as one wishes to be treated: as a whole, complete person.

*Snow, Kathy. “People First Language.” Disability is Natural. 2001-2005. August 4, 2005

Putting the Person First

Examples of “Using People First Language”

Say “She uses a wheelchair.”
Not ”She’s wheelchair bound.”

Say “He has a disability.”
Not “He is a quadriplegic/cripple.”

Say “He has autism.”
Not “He’s autistic.”

Say “He has a congenital disability.”
Not “He has a birth defect.”

Say “She’s a little person.”
Not “She’s a dwarf/midget.”

Having trouble hearing in Church?

Hearing Assistance Devices are available in the rear of the Church. The devices cannot be used outside the Church, as they are connected to our Church public address system.

The hearing devices are used by many at daily and Sunday Masses and other Liturgical Celebrations. PLEASE be sure to return them to the box at the back of the Church and also be certain to turn the switch OFF before placing them back into the box.


© 2017 St Bartholomew Church
All rights reserved

470 Ryders Lane,
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Phone: 732-257-7722