Building Community
One Body In Christ
Anne Masters, MA, FAAIDD

Vol. 2, Issue 3, June 26, 2020

I hope you continue to be healthy and well. Please remember individuals with disabilities and their families as you develop plans to reach out to the people of your parish regarding your plans to re-open. This edition of One Body In Christ Together provides some Practical Suggestions and Considerations for Individuals with Disabilities Safely Returning to Mass, Accompanying Individuals and Families from a Distance, and the New Catechetical Directory.

Remember, there are no "special needs," only human needs, though some may require more intentional consideration. We All Belong. Everyone needs the opportunity to gather for prayer and worship, have friends, learn, develop an informed conscience, have gainful employment, contribute, be needed, be supported, be missed, be loved, in short, to flourish in a life that is human (23-32, Guadium et Spes). As the Body of Christ, we are called to live this out in our ordinary way of being.

Thank you for ALL you do, for ALL of God’s people!

Yours in Christ,
Safely Returning to Mass for Individuals with Disabilities
Sacred Heart Cathedral Archdiocese of Newark Welcome Back across it
The Welcome Back video is excellent. Just a few additional considerations will greatly enhance the experience for individuals with disabilities to return to mass safely. They will not require a lot of work, but your consideration will be appreciated so much by individuals with disabilities and those who love them!

Individuals who communicate more effectively with pictures will benefit from a picture schedule to explain the changes. The schedule in this link corresponds to the Welcome Back video with Cardinal Tobin.

It can be modified based on your own plans. If there are only minor differences, I would be happy to edit it for your parish. To request a modified version, email me and include:
  • Subject line of email, say "modified picture schedule for returning to mass safely"
  • Note which step of picture schedule is being edited or deleted.
  • Provide clearly stated replacement text.
  • Keep language as simple and concrete as possible.
  • Provide alternate photos if you want pictures changed.

People who are blind will most likely need assistance entering the church if a different entrance will be used (per video example).
  • Extra volunteers/greeters on hand to assist people through new entrance and finding a seat will help a great deal.
  • Markers on the pews for social distancing should be tactile, able to be found by touch. Ideally they should be placed on the top of the backs of pews, in front of the seats to use. If they are placed on the back of pews to be sat in, they will be awkward to find.

In general, it will help a lot if you market your plans heavily to parishioners:
  • On your website and through email blasts.
  • Reaching out by phone would be great too by a group of volunteers.

The suggestions above will be helpful for many people, not only for individuals with disabilities and their families, but also people who are elderly, as well as people without disabilities. The picture schedule provides a handy visual reminder of what to expect. Extra greeters can assist anyone who's not sure where to go and answer questions. Tactile markers on top of the backs of pews will be more visible to everyone who can see, not having to look down across pews.
Accompanying From a Distance
Everyone experiencing a fair amount of isolation and disorientation during COVID-19 shutdown period. This has been more significant for individuals whose disabilities make them more dependent on others. Fr. Jim Worth, pastor of St. Joseph in Maplewood, has been trying creative ways to reach out to his flock during this time. He knew that Ben Hack, a parishioner and young man who has autism, has really been missing attending mass and being with everyone. So he dedicated one of his online concerts to Ben, "Ben's Solstice," and played his favorite hymns and songs. EWTN heard about it and shared this video story of it.

The April edition of One Body in Christ Together offered insights on the needs of individuals with disabilities and their families and some suggestions on how to reach out. If you missed it you, here's link for more information.
Fr Jim Worth caption says And I felt that his routine was completely uprooted
New Catechetical Directory
Directory for Catechesis Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Has image of the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary and the apostles.
On June 25 came the announcement of the long anticipated new Directory for Catechesis by Mons. Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. It will be exciting to read the full document when it is available in English. But some early insights from his press conference and media coverage give much cause for excitement. There is a clear interest in breaking down stereotypes and prejudices about individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD).

“The sacraments are gifts of God and the liturgy, which even before being understood rationally, ask to be lived: therefore, no one can deny the sacraments to people with disabilities.” Not only does the new directory reinforce and build on the earlier catechetical directories, it echoes the Pastoral Statement of the US Bishops on Persons with Disabilities (1978), the Guidelines for Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities (US, 1995), and Revised Guidelines (US, 2017). It says that parishes should not just welcome individuals with disabilities into catechetical programs, but also must proactively work "for a culture of inclusion against the logic of waste." (Disabilities, par. 269-272) Crux, June 25, 2020

The new Directory builds on the unfolding tradition of Vatican II and ensuing papal statements, particularly Pope Francis in Evangelii gaudium. Catechesis cannot escape its basis and purpose in evangelization and relationship. It also affirms the teaching within the Archdiocese that emphasizes the importance of building relationships within the catechetical process that nurtures the invitation to assent, rather than imposing content. Mons. Fisichella, June 25, 2020

To end this brief introduction to the New Directory concerning individuals with disabilities, a dear friend and colleague of mine who was interviewed for the above Crux article, Cristina Gangemi of the The Kairos Forum, says it perfectly, “Anyone who is surprised by someone with an intellectual disability being able to manifest God in their lives…is in some way disabled, because it means that they don’t see the fullness of God’s action as a potential in everybody, there’s a bias there.”
Website Highlights and New Additions
The purpose of the Office is to help you in your ministry, specifically relative to helping you to more comfortably and effectively support individuals with disabilities to participate fully in the life of the Church, and to accompany them and those who love them in their faith journeys. There are a number of resources on the ministry website to assist you with this, so this section will feature a particular page of it or introduce a new item.
I Remember Duke sample cover with picture of a black lab just his face and shoulders with posts of a fence behind him and grass and woods background
When Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Grieve
Individuals with IDD grieve, just like all people do. The process may last longer, but that might have more to do with communication issues or not having access to comforting rituals and communal acknowledgement. And each person will handle it differently based on their personality and the particulars about who or what is being grieved.

I developed this grief workbook a number of years ago for some particular individuals with autism. With current technology, I finally made the current version to insert pictures and record thoughts and feelings. It's important to realize that any change involves some level of grieving. Saying hello to new opportunities means saying goodbye to familiar patterns.

Accompanying Families
We currently have two groups for parents of individuals with disabilities that have been meeting for many years at St. John the Evangelist in Bergenfield, one for moms and one for dads. Physical meetings are suspended for now. For more information about other possibilities for gathering, support and connection, contact:
And A Child Shall Lead Us
Contact Anne Masters at
All Dads of Individuals with Disabilities
Contact Deacon Jim Detura at or Anne Masters.
Anne Masters, MA, FAAIDD
Pastoral Ministry with Persons with Disabilities
Phone: 973-497-4309

171 Clifton Avenue
 P.O. 9500
 Newark, NJ 071074