ILLINOIS COUNCIL HELPS INCORPORATE ALL GOD’S CHILDREN IN PARISH LIFE
Photo credit Photo courtesy of Michael Arch
HUNTLEY, Ill. — A recent Mass for People with Special Needs organized by St. Mary of Huntley Council 11666 was an opportunity for all of God’s children to experience his love.
“I don’t think I have ever felt a higher presence of God during the Mass than I did at this Special Needs Mass,” said Michael Arch, who helped organize the Mass at St. Mary Church with fellow Knights.
Steven Cook, a young man with Down syndrome who delivered the first reading, seemed to agree.
“After he completed the reading, he hugged everyone on the altar and then continued through the crowd,” said Arch.
The Knights were inspired to organize the Mass when they saw such Masses encouraged as part of Faith In Action, the faith-based model for charitable and religious programs introduced by the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council last year.
“We connected with the parish and Father Max loved the idea,” Brian Parker, the council’s director of life programs, said. “We all came together to make it happen.”
Father Max Striedl, chaplain of Council 11666, celebrated the Mass, while the council’s faith director, Deacon Jim Conrey, assisted.
“This Mass, like every Mass, really is about hopefulness,” Father Striedl said in his homily. “We’re celebrating the hope that we have in Christ.”
Father Striedl said that while so many people face struggles, illnesses, and infirmities, we find hope because God the Father loves us so much that he was willing to send his Son to the cross to save us.
“As St. Paul says in Scripture that if he’s willing to do that, of course he’s going to give whatever else we need to keep moving forward in life. To keep facing the challenges and the struggles that come our way.”
The Knights worked together with the parish’s director of pastoral care, as well as the director of the Special Religious Education (SPRED) program, to organize the Mass.
In the weeks leading up to it, the Knights invited parishioners and made clear they would make any accommodations necessary to ensure everyone’s full participation.
On the day of the Mass, five Knights were available to provide transportation to the Mass for anyone who might need it. The Mass was celebrated in the parish hall as it was more easily accessible.
“Any out-of-the-ordinary happenings were embraced and never judged or seen as disruptive,” Arch said. “It was a place where everyone could approach God just as who they are and how God made them.”
By organizing a Mass for people with special needs, a parish has the opportunity to welcome people who might not normally feel comfortable participating in a regularly scheduled Mass. It can be the first of many steps toward including them more deeply in parish life.
Damien O’Connor, Senior Director of Membership Experience and Formation at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Headquarters, noted the importance of this program.
“Part of being a Knight of Columbus is not only to be Christ for others but to see Christ in others, especially those with special needs,” O’Connor said. “The Mass for People with Special Needs is part of the Faith in Action Program because those with special needs are truly living icons of God’s love.”
The Knights are leading the charge to see Christ in those with special needs in Huntley. Council 11666 plans to make the Mass an annual event to help ensure everyone at the parish can feel welcome and included.
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