In the week before Christmas I attended the funeral of Loretto O’ Callaghan a retired colleague from Imperial.
Loretto had been the College’s Disability Officer. She had pioneered positive action to help students and staff with disabilities. All this was done through a deep committment and great strength of character in a time long before the requirements of the current legislation. Knowing some of the stories from many years ago I know that she did not always have an easy time persuading people of the need to make improvements.
I valued her strong sense that if facilities were improved for those with disabilities then the improvements would also benefit the whole community. Action on disability helps all of us. Loretto gave a talk for the Chaplaincy ten years ago as part of a series called ‘On being human’. She talked about the hidden disabilities that many of us carry. So she assumed that everyone she met had some kind of disability and needed to be treated with a kind of deep reverence. She also talked about was the way that vulnerability, weakness and limitation are a natural part of what it is to be human. The task is not to flee from these aspects of all our lives but to embrace them and not be constrained by them.
An example of Loretto’s work is mentioned in a personal statement by a former student on the College’s Centenary website http://www.imperial.ac.uk/centenary/memories/chapman.shtml
It was interesting for me as a Christian priest to find myself remembering all of this in the run up to Christmas when the theme is of a God who embraces the vulnerability of being born human.
Loretto, may she rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen