'Opening Doors' Mass for Disability Awareness

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Posted: 9/30/15

Dr. Greta Stokes Tucker

When you throw a celebration, Jesus told his followers, you must seek out and celebrate with those who have disabilities. That is what Bishop David Zubik will do Oct. 4 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Paul Cathedral as he inaugurates a yearly diocesan celebration for disability awareness. Everyone is welcome.

The first “Opening Doors Disability Awareness Mass” will acknowledge and celebrate the many gifts that people with disabilities bring to the church, especially to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The diocesan celebration will be held every three years, while parish-based celebrations will be encouraged during the intervening years. The next diocesan “Opening Doors” Mass is set for 2018 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the U.S. bishops’ pastoral statement on people with disabilities.

Catholics who are blind, deaf or physically or intellectually impaired will carry out important liturgical roles at the Opening Doors Mass. It will be a demonstration to the entire community that people with physical, visual, audible, intellectual and sensory disabilities and impairments also have significant gifts that they share with the church.

This triennial service at the cathedral will allow those with disabilities to interact with Bishop Zubik and experience his care and appreciation for their presence and service in the church. The parish-based celebrations will affirm that people with disabilities are part of our local family of faith, and that they bring many gifts and abilities to the parish community.

Invitations for the Opening Doors Mass have been extended to parishes, educational programs and residential homes and programs throughout the diocese, such as the McGuire Memorial Home and DePaul School for Hearing and Speech.

The Deaf Choir of St. Mary of the Mount Parish will participate in the liturgy, along with a sign language interpreter. Ambassadors, identified by their green polo shirts, will greet guests and provide assistance with parking and mobility. The drop-off area can be accessed from the cathedral driveway via Fifth Avenue. Additional parking is available at Oakland Catholic and Central Catholic high schools. The cathedral parking lot and upper spaces at Oakland Catholic are reserved for handicap parking. Low-gluten hosts will be available for those with particular dietary needs.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has a long history of providing advocacy, awareness and celebration of people with disabilities.

Historically, the diocese has chosen special occasions and anniversaries to hold Masses that celebrate the life and gifts of those with disabilities. The last such diocesan Mass was September 2012 at St. Paul Seminary, marking the 25th anniversary of the creation of a diocesan office dedicated to people with disabilities.

Several parishes host yearly liturgical celebrations for disability awareness. Under the Opening Doors initiative, not only will these parish celebrations continue, they will be encouraged as the expected way for parish programs and ministries to be accessible and include people with disabilities into the full life of the church.

For additional information about the Opening Doors Mass, contact the diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity and Persons with Disabilities at 412-456-3170 or e-mail diversityanddisabilities@diopitt.org.

Tucker is director of the Office for Cultural Diversity and Persons with Disabilities.