ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — Christians all over the world are celebrating holy week, as Easter Sunday approaches, but one church in Orchard Park, St. Bernadette's Catholic Church, is wanting to make sure every Christian is able to celebrate by continuing its inclusive mass.
"This mass is designed for people with special needs," St. Bernadette's Catholic Church faith of formation director, Sharon Urbaniak told Pheben Kassahun Thursday afternoon.
The Catholic church wants families to know its doors are open and accepting of everyone who wishes to celebrate Easter, including those with special needs or disabilities.
"On Easter, usually, our churches are all packed. Standing room only. It's hard for a family who takes longer to get to mass and for people who may have anxiety issues to be around that 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 in the worship setting to allow people to move freely, if needed.
"We don't use incense. We offer low gluten hosts, we have a sensory room that's available. We offer people to express their joy however they can, whether it be noises, movement, whatever the spirit moves them," Urbaniak said.
The mass will be shorter and easier to follow, with quieter, more soothing music and dimmer lighting. A sign language interpreter will also be on-hand.
"We do have wheelchair accessible seating, we do have a sensory room, our bathrooms are accessible, our entrances are, and there's people at the door to welcome everybody," she explained.
Faith of formation director, Sharon Urbaniak shared that this is something the church started about six years ago, allowing all believers to have a sense of community and belonging.
"Quite frequently, families feel isolated and away from the parish community and don't know who to go to. Sometimes their families don't understand the special needs, and may not even include them on celebrations during the holidays," Urbaniak said.
The inclusive church mass will take place Tuesday, April 19 at 7 p.m. It will be followed by a reception.