FORT WAYNE — “We gather here this afternoon in faith and mutual love to celebrate the gifts of our brothers and sisters with disabilities,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades said in his homily at the Mass for persons with disabilities on Respect Life Sunday, Oct. 6, at St. Jude Church in Fort Wayne.
“We come to Mass to receive strength from the Lord in the Eucharist so that we can indeed bear our share of hardship for the Gospel,” he said. “In the midst of life’s struggles, we turn to the Lord and His Church, and we are renewed in spirit and strengthened in our faith. ‘Lord, increase our faith,’ the prayer of the apostles, is our prayer.”
The bishop noted, “St. Paul’s teaching and advice are important and relevant for us today. Whatever our abilities or disabilities, we all have received from the Lord not a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. We all have been called to bear witness or testimony to the Lord.”
The bishop added, “How edified I have been by the powerful and loving witness of many persons with disabilities in our diocese, of individuals and families who indeed bear their share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. I believe that your witness to the Lord is vital to the Church’s mission of evangelization in the world today.”
“It is good to focus on the gifts of persons with disabilities since your generous sharing of your gifts, in the midst of hardship and struggle at times, is a powerful sign to all of the power of God’s grace and love,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“We should not focus so much on disabilities as to neglect your gifts and abilities and the ways you can and do serve the Lord and His Church,” he said. “And the whole Church must continue to seek to remove any obstacles to your full and active participation in the life of the Church. Catholics are much poorer when we do not experience and receive your gifts which help build up the Body of Christ, the Church, at every level: parish, diocese and beyond. The Church is stronger when the gifts of all are welcomed and when a true spirit of mutual love extends to all, without discrimination.”
Many of those engaged in lay ministries for the Mass have disabilities or have loved ones with such challenges.
Cash Reuille, who lives with Down syndrome, is a seasoned server from St. Vincent de Paul Church, Fort Wayne. He was joined by Judy Trentadore from St. Jude, Fort Wayne, who was “a little nervous” and excited to be serving Mass for the bishop.
Tracy Rau, who is blind and uses a guide dog, began lectoring at Our Lady of Good Hope Parish, Fort Wayne, as a result of being asked to proclaim the readings at last year’s disability retreat. She was one of two lectors with disabilities. Rau reflected on the Mass that, “We are all God’s children. To go through the struggles in our lives and to bear all of the crosses in our lives, we need to walk with Jesus.”
Monica Laughlin from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was among the over 50 participants in the Mass. She said she hoped more Catholic deaf would attend the Mass in the future.
Parents and supporters of children with disabilities were grateful that the Mass for people with disabilities is celebrated. Michael Kucharski, a friend of Tom, Judy Trentadore’s father, said that this was “a nice, friendly environment (for) people with disabilities.”
Jennifer Barton from St. Therese Parish, Fort Wayne, passionately described that “it is so, so special to have something like this. Our son, Andrew, has autism and I don’t think everybody understands what that means.” Members of the Barton family were also gift-bearers for the Mass.
A time of fellowship and faith sharing followed in the church’s vestibule.
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