The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), in partnership with Loyola Press, is pleased to announce St. John Chrysostom Parish in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as the winner of this year’s Loyola Press Opening Doors Parish Award. The parish will receive from Loyola Press $1000 and a plaque.
Three judges, representing the Archdioceses of Atlanta and Portland in Oregon, and the Diocese of Toledo, selected St. John Chrysostom Parish after reviewing numerous applications from across the United States. In their review, the judges looked at ways parishes demonstrate a deep commitment to parishioners with disabilities, providing access for full participation in all aspects of parish life: sacramental, catechetical, social, ministerial, and community service.
In 2014, the pastor of St. John Chrysostom, Rev. Edward J. Hallinan, sought out families who were missing from Sunday Mass, families whose children looked and behaved differently at Mass and parish events. After hearing their stories of isolation and pain, Father Hallinan challenged St. John Chrysostom to become a faith community that would genuinely welcome all; where families could worship in an atmosphere of warmth; and where all children could participate fully in the Sacraments.
Now a parishioner leads their ministry with persons with disabilities, which developed a mission statement and four areas of focus. Their adapted religious education program, now in its second year, draws new families to the parish. One regularly-scheduled Sunday Mass each month is adapted especially for worshippers who need accommodations like reduced lighting, low-gluten hosts, and sign-language interpretation. The mass also features persons with disabilities in ministerial roles on and off the altar.
NCPD Board Chair, Sr. Kathleen Schipani, IHM, offered these congratulations to St. John Chrysostom Parish: “The parish staff and parishioners are a wonderful model of including all people in their parish family. What I especially admire is their planning process which includes people with disabilities and their family members. What I also find very impressive is how they reach out to group homes in their parish boundaries; an area that is so often overlooked. They are a shining model of what parish ministry can be with persons with disabilities.”
By granting this award to St. John Chrysostom, NCPD and Loyola Press hope to show parishes large and small, old and new, that sowing seeds of welcome to persons with disabilities and making accommodations for all to partake at the Lord’s Table produces a bountiful harvest that nourishes the entire parish.
Below is a description from St. John Chrysostom of other related items at their parish.
Personal assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired worshippers are available at all Masses, as are low-gluten Hosts for those with gluten sensitivities. At every Mass, ushers are trained to look for opportunities to assist all, and Eucharistic Ministers distribute Holy Communion in the pews as needed.
St. John’s does not have a “cry room” for children, disabled or otherwise. Our Masses are filled with the sounds and activity of all children, as well as adults with disabilities. Any worshipper who needs an alternate area during Mass may step into the glass-doored vestibule (narthex), where the P.A. system carries the liturgy audio, and the Mass and worshipper remain fully in view.
Our monthly Mass of Welcoming & Inclusion—the first and only of its kind in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia—exemplifies our parish commitment by integrating the deaf and disabled into our regular Eucharistic celebration with a modified liturgy and American Sign Language interpreter. This Mass is actively promoted through traditional and social media channels to local organizations and programs that serve the deaf and disabled. The Mass of Welcoming is also filmed by our Televised Mass ministry, broadcast on our local cable channel, and embedded on our parish website for viewing.
On the parish website you can find the following statement:
St. John Chrysostom warmly welcomes all people to all Masses at all times.
Our monthly Mass of Welcoming & Inclusion includes some modifications for persons with special needs. The liturgy is shorter, the music and lighting softer, and the Mass is interpreted in American Sign Language. Learn more here.
Note: Low-gluten Hosts are available at all Masses.
They also provide a wonderful pdf that tells people how they can support disability ministry, found below.