Mass celebrates students with special abilities

Sep 22, 2022
Father Martin Nyguen shows his high school tassel to Morning Star Catholic School students during the Mass for Children with Special Abilities at Holy Family Parish, Orlando, Sep.18, 2022. He said the tassel was a reminder to never give up hope. Residents from Bishop Grady Villas, a residential community for adults with disabilities also participated. (LANA KACZMAREK)

ORLANDO | Students from Morning Star Catholic School participated in a special Mass at Holy Family Parish, tailored to their needs, Sept. 18, 2022. Excited to be present, each was free to be themselves and reflect their gifts as part of the body of Christ.

Mass offers a time of celebration, community, and fellowship for all of God’s people, yet children with special abilities often feel overstimulated by their surroundings at a traditional Mass. While working in deaf ministry, Father Martin Nguyen, parochial administrator of Holy Family, noticed how children with special abilities are often underserved yet they have a strong desire to encounter Christ. He felt hosting this Mass would allow these children to be “reminded that our Creator has made them unique and special and that He loves them unconditionally.”

“The Church is called to uphold the sanctity of life from beginning to its natural end and everything in between,” reflected Father Nguyen. “This Mass is (an opportunity) to celebrate the beauty of these children’s lives.”

Francisco is the father of 16-year-old Gabriel, a student at Morning Star. They have been with Morning Star for five years and were grateful for the support of Holy Family.

“The body of Christ is right there with us. Seeing Holy Family embrace these children with special abilities is very important for me because we are in this journey with them and having this support from Holy Family means a lot to us,” beamed Francisco.

Principal of Morning Star Catholic School, Alicia Abbey, was thrilled to partner with Holy Family as she echoed Father Nguyen’s desire to raise awareness for these children. Morning Star joins Saint Charles Borromeo Parish weekly for Mass, but she hopes to continue partnering with other parishes throughout the Diocese of Orlando to continue fostering these students’ prayer lives and ensuring they feel included in the Church community.

To best serve the children attending the special Mass, Father Nguyen held the liturgy in Holy Family’s chapel as it offered a more intimate setting for the children to focus and fully participate in the celebration.

“We thought it would be a great blessing to create an environment for these wonderful children to participate in the celebration of Mass where accommodations can be made to remove that overwhelming feeling,” Father Nguyen said.

Father Nguyen hopes this Mass will allow the children “to be themselves as they encounter our loving God and be nourished by Him.” Before Mass began, he told the children if they needed to get up or walk around to feel more comfortable, it was perfectly acceptable.

During his homily, Father Nguyen invited the students to join him on the steps of the altar. He shared his high school tassel as his reminder to never give up no matter how difficult life gets as we can always be successful with Christ on our side.

Father Nguyen prayed this Mass would serve and nurture the families of the children so they could socialize and build fellowship with one another as many do at other Sunday Masses.

“This could be a great opportunity for families to meet and support each other,” Father Nguyen said. “Raising children is difficult, more so for parents of children with special abilities. I pray that the families take the opportunity to get to know each other. Isn’t that one of the important aspects of Christian life?”

By Lana Kaczmarek, Special to the Florida Catholic, September 22, 2022