COLORADO SPRINGS. St. Dominic Parish in Security will host a Mass for people with special needs on May 30 at 2 p.m. The focus of the Mass is to send the message that all of God’s children are welcome under the parish roof and that every person is an integral part of the parish family. A reception will follow. Those who plan to attend are asked to RSVP by calling the parish office at 719-392-7653.
In an effort to accommodate attendees, the lights in the church will be dimmed, and there will be no ringing of bells or choir singing. The church has side-by-side seating for those in wheelchairs. The children’s room and restroom will be open as well.
“For many families who have special needs children and adults who are autistic or intellectually disabled — or have behavioral and emotional problems — it is a matter of acceptance and accommodations in the worship space,” said Deacon Rick Athey, who is a practicing psychiatrist. “When the disabled cannot sit still, are loud, say things at inappropriate times, then they disrupt the service in a way that often makes them feel unwanted. They get stares, negative looks, or even negative comments that make them feel unwelcome.”
“Crying or quiet rooms can be helpful, especially if they have good visual access to what is going on in the Mass,” he said.
Parishes can also help families of the disabled by providing child care during Mass, he said.
“For some, the presence of child care during Mass for the most disruptive can allow others in the family to attend,” Deacon Athey said. “Having child care staff trained in dealing with not only babies and young children but also those with disabilities would be helpful.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued Guidelines for Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons of Disabilities, which is a “good starting point for where our diocese should be in working with this population,” Deacon Athey said.
Parishes’ efforts to welcome those with special needs will bear many fruits.
“If we look beyond the disability to the person inside, treat that person with respect, and try to understand their needs, their struggles, their pain and suffering, then we too can gain much from what we do,” he said. “We should all understand that any of us could one day also become disabled. We even have clergy now who have disabilities and are still a great gift to our diocese.”