By Megan Erbacher
The Message assistant editor
On June 18, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes welcomed a large crowd of parishioners and faithful who filled the pews of St. John the Baptist Church to celebrate a Mass for All. The Mass, sponsored by the St. Francis Xavier Exceptionalities Committee and Knights of Columbus Council #712 of Vincennes, focused on people of all abilities, unique and diverse needs, and their families and friends.
This is the fourth Mass for All hosted within the Diocese of Evansville, and the second sponsored by St. Francis Xavier Parish and the K of C Council #712 of Vincennes.
Father William Traylor, a senior priest of the diocese, celebrated the Mass. Father Tony Ernst, pastor of St. Francis Xavier and St. Philip Neri Parish in Bicknell, concelebrated the Mass with him. Deacon Kevin Kilmer assisted.
Organizers said 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. Zayden Fields and Knights of Columbus Council #712 member Bob Lechner served as lectors.
Ann Herman, the parish’s liaison to the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, said Cooper Schneider helped greet parishioners and hand out prayer cards before Mass began. She noted that Cooper’s brother is diocesan seminarian Jacob Schneider, a son of Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville.
Herman also mentioned that sign-language interpreter Diana Ahlbaum provided sign language for the hearing impaired who attended Mass.
The Mass for All is part of the ongoing work of the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities. Last June, 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.
Deacon Kevin Kilmer served as homilist. He began by wishing all the fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and father figures a Happy Father’s Day, and he offered a special welcome to all of the guests and friends present to celebrate the special Mass.
“God loves you, regardless of infirmity … or disability,” Deacon Kevin said. “Many times, we find ourselves on the outside looking in, cut off from society, and, yes, even our church. (But) God loves you.”
Deacon Kevin continued, and he said when Jesus was on our earth, even with the rich, powerful influencers of his day, Jesus chose to be with sinners, with outcasts.
“Jesus Christ chose to be with us,” he said. “He sought us out and spent time with us because he wanted the people of his time to know that we, too, are important. And that we matter. We are the Father’s children, too. Don’t ever forget we are God’s children also. We belong here.”
Deacon Kevin continued his homily speaking about the special day for fathers. He noted the day’s readings reflected the fundamental roles of the father, including “to be a provider, a protector, a spiritual leader.”
“God is our father,” he said. “He created us out of love, to love and to be loved. Did you know that all of us existed in the mind of God before time began? … He wants us to be with him in heaven for all eternity. He loves us that much.”
As a member of the St. Francis Xavier Exceptionalities Committee, Herman, who is also a special-education teacher, said the Mass for All is a wonderful celebration they plan to host annually.
“It was also super special to have Deacon Kevin celebrate with us,” she said. “The Mass for All is a really nice way to make sure everyone feels welcome because that’s what we’re supposed to do, as Catholics.”
For more information on the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities, visit https://www.evdio.org/about.html.