We are one

Sept. 28-Oct.4, 06
We are one
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Annual Mass for Persons with Disabilities includes anointing and reception

BALDWINSVILLE — Persons with disabilities traveled from all over the diocese to participate in a special Mass at St. Mary’s Church on Sept. 24. The annual Mass has taken place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the past, but the facilities at St. Mary’s were well suited for the event. Accommodations for wheelchairs and other needs were taken care of as the Human Development Committee and the Legion of Mary from St. Mary’s helped organize the event.

Father Richard Kopp, pastor of St. Mary’s, was celebrant. Bishop James Moynihan usually celebrates the Mass, but is still recovering from heart surgery. Bishop Thomas Costello was scheduled as homilist, but he suffered an injury from a fall last week and decided to bow out.

Father Kopp explained that Bishop Costello stepped away from a microphone during the annual priests’ meeting at Alexandria Bay and stepped off a platform hitting his head on a table. “He’s doing pretty well,” Father Kopp noted. “He stayed at the conference but his injury started

progressively looking worse and worse and he felt it might be a distraction today.”

He welcomed everyone and joked that it was the first time he had been the celebrant when the Knights of Columbus processed ahead of him. Persons with disabilities also took part in the procession and the readings were proclaimed by Carmencita Samuels who used a Braille lectionary.

Father Kopp’s homily was a reminder that everyone experiences a disability in someway, whether it is physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. “The emphasis should not be on the disability, but rather on all our potential to bring healing and comfort to one another in our own unique way,” Father Kopp said. The Scriptures for the day shed light on the idea that the disciples were too busy arguing amongst themselves who would be first that they missed the opportunity to serve each other. “Jesus offered a solution,” Father Kopp said. “He told the disciples that if they really wanted to be first, they must be the servant of all.” Jesus’ message, Father Kopp said, was that the disciples needed to become aware of their responsibility to one another.

“We can touch people with our healing, our strength, our encouragement,” he said. “Don’t let the circumstances deter you. Listen to Holy God who accepts all our disabilities and who will never forsake us.” After his homily, Father Kopp began the liturgy of anointing and members of the congregation came forward to be anointed with sacred oil. There were wheelchairs and walkers, but also many who had no visible sign of a disability, but who sought Christ’s healing.

One parishioner of Our Lady of Pompei in Syracuse came because her husband is a member of the Knights of Columbus who served at the Mass. She went up to be anointed because she suffers from arthritis. “I thought the Mass was absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It made me cry.”

Joan Ramin from St. Mary’s Human Development Committee said her parish was pleased to host the Mass this year. “We have a new gathering space, the Cole Family Parish Center. It’s accessible and we want everyone to know they are welcome to come here,” Ramin said.

A reception at the parish center with pizza, cider and cookies followed the Mass. Sisters Theresann Gehringer and Caryn Haas from the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence were present and there to assist persons with disabilities. The two sisters work with adults with special needs. They have implemented an adult religious education program since they came to the diocese a little over one year ago. They host evenings of celebration for adults with disabilities and they also offer sacramental programs. The next date of an evening celebration is Saturday, Oct. 28 at Holy Family Church in Fairmount. Mass will begin at 5 p.m. followed by supper and fellowship. For more information about the sisters’ ministry, call Sister Theresann at (315) 474-1745 or email her at dsmpny@aol.com.

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