By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vincennes welcomed a large crowd to St. John the Apostle Church June 12 for the Diocese of Evansville’s first-ever Mass for All. The Mass is part of the ongoing work of the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities.
Father Tony Ernst, administrator of St. Francis Xavier and St. Philip Neri Parish in Bicknell, concelebrated the Mass with Father Garrett Braun, parochial vicar of St Francis Xavier and St. Philip Neri. Deacon Reynaldo Carandang assisted, and Diocese of Evansville seminarian Bradley Gehlhausen of St. Mary Parish in Ireland served.
Knight of Columbus Kevin Kilmer, a member of Council #712 in Vincennes, served as lector. Kevin is one of 12 men who will be ordained deacons for the Diocese of Evansville on Aug. 13. His brother Knight Bob Lechner, who helped plan the Mass for All with parishioner Ann Herman, offered an opening prayer before Mass began. Sign-language interpreter Sally Backer from the Archdiocese of St. Louis traveled to Vincennes to provide sign language for the hearing impaired who attended the Mass.
Cantor Kathy Evans led all in singing the music of the Mass a capella.
Father Garrett served as homilist. June 12 was the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and Father Garrett talked about the mystery of three persons in one God.
He recounted the story of St. Augustine of Hippo encountering a child on a beach dipping water from the ocean into a small hole in the sand. St. Augustine had been walking along the beach contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity. The man who would become a saint and Doctor of the Church told the youngster that he could never put all of the water from the ocean into that little hole. The child – actually an angel in disguise – responded, “And don’t you know you’ll never fit the mystery of the Trinity in that head of yours!”
Father Garrett mentioned St. Patrick’s use of a three-leaf clover to illustrate the concept of the Trinity, but he noted that the clover is one plant with three leaves. The mystery of the Holy Trinity calls us to contemplate three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in one God, He said, “No worldly example can truly serve as an analogy for the Trinity. They can help us, but they all fall short.”
Father Garrett talked about Genesis 1:26, which begins with God saying, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” He noted that God’s description of Himself in plural affirms the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He added, “God is a perfect community of love, and that’s what we are called into. This Mass for All calls all, including those with diverse abilities, to come together in a community of love.”
After Communion and before the liturgy’s Prayer after Communion, final blessing and dismissal, those in attendance joined Father Tony in offering a Prayer for Awareness, which was printed on holy cards distributed before Mass. The prayer says, in part, “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.”
Following the prayer, Father Tony thanked all involved in planning for making the Mass so special. He especially mentioned Ann Herman and Knight of Columbus Bob Lechner.
Ann, a member of St. Francis Xavier Parish and a former special-education teacher, serves as the parish’s liaison to the diocese’s Ministry with Persons with Disabilities.
She said that she and members of K of C Council 712 spent about four months planning for the Mass, which is the first of its kind celebrated across the diocese. She said, “We hope to make this an annual Mass in Vincennes, and I plan to share how we planned the Mass and what we learned from the experience with the other parish liaisons from across the diocese. We hope this experience will help everyone in our diocese build on what we have started.”