ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) – Christians around the world are celebrating Holy Week as Easter Sunday approaches, but one church in Orchard Park, St. Bernadette Catholic Church, wants to make sure all Christian is able to celebrate by continuing his inclusive mass.
“This Mass is designed for people with special needs,” Sharon Urbaniak, director of formation for St. Bernadette Catholic Church, told Pheben Kassahun Thursday afternoon.
The Catholic Church wants families to know that its doors are open to anyone who wishes to celebrate Easter, including those with special needs or disabilities.
“At Easter, usually, our churches are all full. Standing room only. It is difficult for a family who takes longer to get to mass and for people who may have anxiety problems to be surrounded so many people or sensory issues,” Urbaniak said.
On Tuesday, April 19, it will be quite the opposite. Families will be able to come to a less crowded Mass as part of worship to allow people to move freely, if necessary.
“We do not use incense. We offer low gluten hosts, we have a sensory room available. We offer people to express their joy however they can, be it noises, movements, regardless of the spirit that drives them,” Urbaniak said.
Mass will be shorter and easier to follow, with quieter, more soothing music and dimmer lighting. A sign language interpreter will also be on site.
“We have wheelchair accessible seating, we have a sensory room, our bathrooms are accessible, our entrances are accessible, and there are people at the door to greet everyone,” she explained.
Faith of Formation director Sharon Urbaniak shared that this is something the church started about six years ago, empowering all believers to have a sense of community and belonging.
“Quite often families feel isolated and removed from the parish community and don’t know who to turn to. Sometimes their families don’t understand special needs and may not even include them in celebrations during the holidays,” Urbaniak said.
The inclusive mass will take place on Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. It will be followed by a reception.