The Harry Barr Fund

Funding Special Education in Our Catholic Schools

Story originally written for the 2016 Catholic Foundation Annual Report by J.D. Flynn


Pope Francis says that welcoming young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are often marginalized and forgotten, helps us “to understand the real meaning of life”– to love, and to be loved.”

Our church teaches that “it is not enough to affirm the rights of people with disabilities. We must actively work to make them real in the fabric of modern society.”

The Harry Barr Fund does just that.

"St. Joseph’s is reaching people in the same way Pope Francis called us to do and they’re promoting St. John Paul II’s culture of life."

JD Flynn, St. Joseph Parent and School Advisory Committee

Established in 2016, the Harry Barr Fund provides resources, training, and support for Catholic education to children with mild, moderate, and significant learning delays. The Inclusive Catholic Education program at St. Joseph School, augmented by the Harry Barr Fund, supports more than 40 children and provides educational opportunities that build on their strengths and abilities, while responding to their individual needs and challenges.

Through the Harry Barr Fund, children with intellectual disabilities and learning delays receive specialized instruction in their classrooms alongside their peers. Teachers are trained to approach instruction with the needs of each child in mind. Specialized textbooks, therapies, and classroom assistants are made available when needed.

Studies have shown that when children with disabilities and delays are included as full classroom participants, every child benefits. Each has the opportunity to grow in compassion, empathy, and respect. Children – disabled and typical – build lifelong friendships, and true Christian unity. When teachers are trained in adaptive and flexible instructional models, classroom behavior and engagement improves, and so do test results, for all children. The Harry Barr Fund facilitates a learning model that respects every child, and helps each grow to his or her full potential.

Supporting specialized instruction for all children, especially those with intellectual and learning delays, is an investment that benefits all children. But the high cost of specialized and supportive instruction means that very few children with Down syndrome, autism, or other significant educational challenges have the opportunity to attend Catholic Schools. The Harry Barr Fund is pioneering a model of inclusive Catholic education that could impact thousands of families, and be replicated in the parishes across our diocese, and across the country. And your support is critical.

Your support for the Harry Barr Fund provides teacher training, instructional material, classroom assistants, and adaptive technology. The Harry Barr Fund is an innovative response to the call and witness of Pope Francis, a work of mercy, and a pro-life commitment to support, serve, and celebrate the dignity of every single human life.

If you’d like to support the Harry Barr Fund with a direct contribution, or initiate a new and similar endowment fund, contact the Catholic Foundation of Southern Nebraska, or donate now by clicking the button below. 

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