By Megan Erbacher
The Message assistant editor
On Sept. 24, St. Joseph Parish in Princeton welcomed parishioners and faithful who filled the pews of St. Joseph Church to near capacity to celebrate a Mass for All. The Mass focused on people of all abilities, unique and diverse needs, and their families and friends.
Father Gary Kaiser, pastor of St. Joseph, celebrated the Mass, and Deacon Joseph Siewers assisted.
This is the fifth Mass for All hosted within the Diocese of Evansville. The Mass for All specifically encourages those of “all abilities” to help with the ministries during Mass, including serving as ushers, greeters, servers, lectors or gift bearers. Stephen Kissel served as lector for the Mass.
Father Gary served as homilist. He said he was grateful for the invitation from the diocese to host the Mass for All.
Father Gary spoke of some parishioners and faithful he has encountered over the years. He mentioned Ben, who is nonverbal. Throughout Mass, Ben would make sounds that Father Gary described as guttural. Once Ben was prepared and received his First Communion, Father Gary said Ben was “satisfied.”
“After I gave Ben the Eucharist, Ben was transformed,” he said. “He was fed. Ben was satisfied. He was fed with Jesus, our savior, and he was at peace.”
Father Gary continued, and he noted Jacob, who has a wonderful sense of humor; and Dr. Stephen Kissel, who served as lector for the Mass.
“(Dr. Stephen) always amazes me,” Father Gary said. “He has a challenge, he can’t see, but boy can he read!
Father Gary noted that God works in mysterious ways that he can't explain.
“Jesus understood the value of people. … He gave all people equal value,” he said. “So our challenge is to recognize, and accept with gratitude, God’s amazing grace.”
Prayer cards were handed out before Mass began. All were invited to recite the Prayer for Awareness, from Pathways Foundation, at the conclusion of Mass, which read:
“God, Creator of all, help us to recognize that each of us has abilities and each of us has limitations. And yet we all have a part to play in bringing about Your Kingdom. You love each of us profoundly. In the spirit of gratitude and solidarity, we ask you to increase our awareness
of both the gifts and the needs of those around us. Open our hearts, minds and doors to the gifts of every person. Help us to become truly welcoming communities where everyone can find a place at Your Table. We ask this in Your name, Amen.”
The Mass for All is part of the ongoing work of the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities. In June 2022, the first Mass for All was hosted by St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes, for the North Deanery, at St. John the Baptist Church. In November of last year, St. Benedict Cathedral in Evansville hosted the diocese’s second Mass for All for the South Deanery. In April, St. Joseph Parish in Jasper hosted the third diocesan Mass for All in the East Deanery. And in June, St. Francis Xavier Parish and the K of C Council #712 of Vincennes sponsored their second Mass for All.
For more information on the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, visit https://www.evdio.org/about.html.