Catholic churches begin sensory-friendly masses

In an effort to embrace and welcome members of the Catholic Church with down syndrome, autism and other special needs, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Office for Respect Life Ministries have planned sensory-friendly masses across the Miami Valley.

Lights, loud music and high-pitched voices can be hard on people with sensory issues or special needs such as autism or ADHD. Therefore, it can be difficult for people with these needs to sit through a Catholic mass with loud music, incense, and lots of talking.

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati decided to put together a committee to host a sensory friendly liturgy to raise awareness for families that have children with those issues,” said Noelle Collis-DeVito, the associate director for Respect Life Ministries Archdioceses of Cincinnati. “The team we put together decided it was something we wanted to make permanent since some of these people have trouble sitting still and get distracted easily during church services.”

Many churches have a separate room with separate services for people with sensory issues but Collis-Devito says it is a different feeling when they can be in the service with their community.

“We want people to know that we want them there and we want them to feel welcome,” said Collis-DeVito.

If churches are looking for ways to welcome those with special needs, the Catholic Telegraph website offers solutions such as forming a community group for these families, provide visual aids and consider adaptive religious education models.

The first sensory-friendly mass in Dayton was hosted at St. Helen parish and there were 100 people in attendance. Now St. Helen will be hosting a community-wide gathering every six months for this group with Bishop Joseph Binzer in attendance.

Several other Dayton parishes have already committed to regularly scheduled sensory-friendly Masses, and the goal is to expand the ministry to other deaneries within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

In order to assist parishes in creating these opportunities to embrace the entire Body of Christ, the Office for Respect Life Ministries has created a variety of resources as well as a Facebook Support Group, @SpecialNeedsAoC.

Upcoming Sensory-Friendly Masses:

St. Francis of Assisi

6245 Wilmington Pike Centerville, OH 45459

Saturday, Aug. 3 (5 p.m.) Saturday, Sept. 7 (5 p.m.) Saturday, Oct. 5 (5 p.m.) Saturday, Nov. 2 (5 p.m.) Saturday, Dec. 7 (5 p.m.)

St. Albert the Great

3033 Far Hills Ave.

Dayton, OH 45429

Saturday, Aug. 10 (4:30 p.m.) Saturday, Oct. 12 (4:30 p.m.) Saturday, Dec. 14 (4:30 p.m.)

St. Henry Parish

6696 N. Springboro Pike Dayton, OH 45449

Sunday, Oct. 13 at 12:30 p.m. Community-wide Mass

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