June 2016

Responding To Special Needs

The May, 2016 edition of the PEP Newsletter contained descriptions of what three Catholic parishes were doing for those with special needs.  That newsletter prompted St. John Chrysostom Parish in Wallingford, PA to send us what is happening there.  It is worth passing it on to others for more ideas about what could be done in this unique ministry.


St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford, PA

Mary Chollet, Director of Parish Ministry and Communication wrote, “I would like to share some of our efforts in this regard at our parish, the winner of the 2015 Loyola Press Opening Doors Award from the National Catholic Partnership on Disability. Our efforts include:

  • A monthly Mass of Welcoming & Inclusion (the only one in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) with a modified liturgy for persons with disabilities, including shorter homilies, shorter hymns, softened lighting, and increased Communion distribution in the pews, etc.  This Mass draws many worshippers from across our area.
  • Two regular Sunday Masses a month, including the Mass of Welcoming and the Mass of Anointing, which have an American Sign Language interpreter.  The interpreter is also present at the seasonal liturgies of Christmas, Palm Sunday, Easter and the like.  The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Deaf Apostolate coordinates these Masses with other ASL liturgies in the surrounding area.
  • Our Sacramental preparation program for children, youth and young adults with special needs includes an Adaptive PREP (religious formation) program that uses materials from Loyola Press. (For more information, please contact Theresa Hedlund at 610/872-4673, ext. 131 or thedlund@sjcparish.org.)
  • A continual effort to integrate those with disabilities into our regular ministries, including blind persons as lectors and people on the autism spectrum as cantors and servers.
  • Parish social gatherings that are geared toward those with disabilities, such as cook-ins for young adults and a Sensory Friendly Breakfast with Santa, to mention but a few.
  • Parish Service opportunities for all those with disabilities, as their abilities permit.
  • The Ministry with Persons with Disabilities which provides a regular parish-wide forum on disability issues that includes speakers and other resources for the families.

These and other initiatives have nourished a deep level of care and compassion across our parish family, which, in turn, has inspired new efforts. We are mindful at St. John’s that, although we have made progress with this ministry, there is always more we must do to reach out to all, always remembering that we are all wonderfully made.”

Mary E. Chollet, Director, Parish Ministry & Communications

Tom Sweetser & Maria Gabriela & Deb Elkins