Down Syndrome intern in Vatican Radio first

The mother of a young Irishman who became the person with Down Syndrome to intern with Vatican Radio has urged other parents to “reach for the stars” after her son’s experience.

Speaking to The Irish Catholic after her son, Michael, ended a successful placement with the Vatican’s media network, May Gannon said “we never, as parents, thought we’d be bringing Michael into something as prestigious as Vatican Radio”.

Already an ambassador for Down Syndrome Ireland, Michael, 33, had shown a taste for the media, and was undertaking media studies as part of the Inclusive Learning Initiative at NUI Maynooth when he seized the opportunity to intern in Rome during a presentation by the station’s head of English programming, Sean-Patrick Lovett.

“Michael asked if anyone with Down Syndrome worked at Vatican Radio,” May explained, “and Sean-Patrick admitted that no-one had every applied.” That, she added, set the ball rolling for Michael’s internship.

Both May and Michael have stated that, as devout Catholics, the highlight of the Rome experience was Michael’s eventual meeting with Pope Francis.

“We thought we would just get to the audience,” May explained. “So it was wonderful to meet the Pope in person.”

The message for all parents of a Down Syndrome child, May insisted, was that with the proper support, such as that given by Vatican Radio, there are opportunities to be gained.

“Reach for the stars,” she said.

For his part, Michael has used the media attention on his internship to deliver a strong message for those who view Down Syndrome as one justification for abortion.

“Stop looking at Down syndrome and see the person for who they are, what they are, what they do in their lives,” he said. “I also want to get a message out to the parents, to see their children’s abilities, to reach their potential.

“I focus on me, and not on my disability,” he said.