The Mustard Seed Project

18 Mustard Seed LOGO

Catholic school administrators, teacher leaders and diocesan leaders representing 53 different schools and organizations gathered for the Mustard Seed Project from October 8-10.  The conference kicked off with a hope-filled keynote by Dr. Michael Boyle reminding the participants of the call to foster belongingness in Catholic school communities to fulfill the directives of the Pastoral Statement of US Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and inspired by the witness and words of so many saints and holy individuals.  School teams then engaged in a self-assessment, critically analyzing the knowledge, skills, and dispositions for inclusion at the classroom and school level.  These self-assessments guided the skill-building sessions  that the participants engaged in, building capacity in areas such as Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS), building a culture for inclusion, and providing accommodations and modifications at all levels. During the second day, participants focused on a specific barrier to inclusion in their school communities, critically analyzing the causes, and developing a strategic theory of action to move their school to the next level.  On the final day of the conference, teams shared their theories of action through a gallery walk, offering feedback to one another.  To conclude, Jill and Chris Reffett shared their personal story of inclusion for their daughters at Blessed Sacrament School in Quincy, Illinois.  This touching testimony reminded all Mustard Seed Project participants how the important ministry of Catholic education is much richer and more meaningful for everyone when we ensure full participation for all.‚Äč

Please click on the link to preview the shared presentations.


The Mustard Seed Project is a conference that explores the important topic of serving students with disabilities within the Catholic school setting.  This year’s theme, Moving from Inclusion to Belonging: A celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Pastoral letter on persons with disabilities.

The Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities (November 16, 1978) has been referred to as one of the most important documents of the American Church regarding persons with disabilities.  It sets forth a vision of Church where all are truly welcomed.  The Pastoral Statement has as much relevance for Catholic organizations today as it did 40 years ago, at its publication.  Increasingly, Catholic schools are responding to this call to open their doors to students with disabilities, yet they are in need of supports and guidance in order to effectively build more inclusive environments.

The Mustard Seed Project 2018 will celebrate the 40th anniversary of this landmark document set forth by the U.S. Catholic bishops.  The Mustard Seed Project 2018 will explore this urgent call for inclusion, explore the necessary supports needed to enhance the response to this call and provide an important opportunity for Catholic school professionals to network and share best practices. 


Conference participants will:         

  • Formulate a school-based response to the Bishops’ Call for Inclusion, as articulated in the Pastoral Statement
  • Create a plan to move from simply including students with disabilities to supporting meaningful belongingness
  • Articulate next steps for creating school systems that facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities.

This conference will feature several professional development strategies including traditional plenary and breakout sessions. In addition to these strategies, dedicated time for team work will be integrated throughout the conference.  Teams will be assigned to sections based on readiness levels in order to develop actionable plans that can be used on return to their schools.  Teams will have access to coaching to help address individual needs in their plan formation.  Finally, the popular Ignatian Roundtable Experience will return.  The Ignatian Roundtable features a short Ignite-style presentation and the opportunity to network and apply the content across settings.