In recognition of April as Autism Awareness Month, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) has asked parishes and dioceses to emphasize an awareness of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and to welcome them into the life of the church.
“The Catholic Church wants all people of various abilities to feel welcome and to participate in the life of the church,” said Sister Bonnie McMenamin, co-director of Ministry With the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities for the Camden Diocese.
— Inclusion and welcoming Masses for individuals and for families with children with special needs will be held at 4:30 p.m. at Catholic Community of Christ Our Light Parish in Cherry Hill on April 6, May 4, June 1, July 6, and Aug. 3.
— Holy Eucharist Parish in Cherry Hill, will hold welcome and inclusion Masses at 1 p.m. on April 14, May 12, and June 9.
— The Church of the Holy Family in Sewell will celebrate the Masses at 4:30 p.m. on April 20, May 18, June 15, July 20, and Aug. 17.
— Inclusive and welcoming Masses are to be celebrated at St. Joachim Parish, Bellmawr, at 12:15 p.m. on April 28, May 26, and June 23.
— Welcome & Inclusion Gathering for Families and Providers of Children and Individuals with Disabilities is set from noon-2 p.m., April 6 at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, McDaid Hall, Westmont.
Sister Bonnie noted that on April 22, Earth Day, all the Catholic schools and Faith Formation Programs and everyone in the diocese are encouraged to join in Bubbles for Autism.
Bubbles for Autism was started by Ventnor resident Isabella Mosca in 2004. It is now observed worldwide with each bubble symbolizing the support and compassion of those who educate, befriend, and love people with ASD, Sister Bonnie said.
According to the NCPD, ASD is the fastest growing significant disability in the U.S., with as many as one in every 88 children now identified with this disorder, making it an increasingly pressing need that ministry be available.
Pastoral and catechetical staff can find support and resources for their specialized needs to serve parishioners with ASD and their families at www.ncpd.org.