By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
One man’s disability is another man’s blessing. Tom Nordeman, who received the annual Margaret Way Hoffner Award from Pennsylvanians for Human Life on Feb. 28, has cerebral palsy.
“If it wasn’t for my disability I wouldn’t have the faith and deep love of God that I have now,” he said on a YouTube video Father Christopher Walsh made for Archbishop Wood High School when he was the school’s campus minister a couple of years back.
Nordeman, the eldest of the five children of Martha and Thomas Nordeman, was born prematurely with a collapsed lung and remained hospitalized for six weeks before he went home.
“When he was born he wasn’t much larger than my hand,” said his uncle, Father John Nordeman, who is currently the Newman Chaplain at West Chester University.
The cerebral palsy, which traces back to his pre-birth medical complications, wasn’t diagnosed until he was about 6 months old and his physical development was not where it should have been at that stage.
“It’s not a disease, it’s a condition in which the brain is damaged,” Nordeman said, explaining cerebral palsy isn’t the same in everyone. In some instances it affects physical abilities in others, cognitive abilities.
“My cognitive abilities are fine, my legs just don’t work,” he said. “I can’t do a lot of things other people can do. I think it is important you see the person who has the disabilities. Just because their legs don’t work doesn’t mean their brain doesn’t work.”
He quotes a friend, who said, “Everybody has their own disabilities, the only difference is you can see mine.”
As a young adult he moved out of his parents’ home into Inglis House, a residence of adults with disabilities, so as to spare the family any possible burden for his care.
“I don’t let the fact that my legs don’t work get me down,” he said. “I believe thoroughly God gives us all a cross and says to all of us, each and every one of us, ‘If you wish to be My disciple take up your cross and follow Me.’ That’s what I strive to do every day. My disability is my cross.”
“Sometimes I’m in a lot of pain,” said Nordeman. “Sometimes I have to turn to God because He is all I have. I love Jesus with all of my heart and all of my soul.”
This love is fulfilled more and more through the Eucharist, he said. Although there are Mass opportunities at Inglis House he prefers to attend Sacred Heart Church in Manoa, simply because there is music at the Mass.
Pennsylvanians for Human Life, the group that gave the award to Nordeman, is a pro-life educational organization, and for his part, “I’m 100 percent pro-life, no compromise on that,” he said. “Regardless who thinks what, Jesus Christ gave one truth and that’s the truth we have to go by.”
To watch the video of Tom Nordeman and his family search “Archbishop Wood Gift of Life” on youtube.com.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.