The Church of the Holy Family held its first Mass for families of children with disabilities on Sept. 18. The Mass will be held on the third Saturday of each month at the regularly scheduled 6 p.m. parish Mass.
“We’re trying to include these children in faith formation classes and welcome their families to Sunday liturgy,” said Sister Bonnie McMenamin, SSJ, who is co-director of the Camden Diocese’s Ministry With the Deaf and Persons with Disabilities.
Sister Bonnie said she has gone to several parishes in the diocese and listened to the concerns, hopes and dreams of the parents.
“A few parishes have inclusive faith formation classes for children with special needs,” she said, “and other parishes have separate faith formation classes focused on children with special needs.”
Sister Bonnie said she discovered that many parents feel uncomfortable attending Mass with their children. Many of these children are on the autism spectrum and their attention span is short. Educating the parishioners about the needs of the children and their families is key to acceptance.
Because Holy Family Parish has faith formation classes for children with special needs, Father Robert Hughes, pastor of Holy Family, was consulted about holding a special Mass of “Welcome and Inclusion” for these children and their families.
The readings were taken from the Lectionary for Children, Father’s homily was four minutes and the Eucharistic Prayers for children were used during the liturgy. The children were involved in the Mass by acting as greeters and all of the children participated in the offertory procession.
After Mass, there was a social for the families.
“The entire Mass was shortened by about 10 minutes,” said Sister Bonnie, adding, “What better place to celebrate a family Mass of Welcome and Inclusion than at The Church of the Holy Family.”