People of all abilities attended the “Catholics Can” Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeline Sept. 4. Wheelchairs lined both sides of the center aisle of the cathedral for the Mass sponsored by the commission for People with Disabilities.
Carol Ruddell, a member of the commission, used sign language and Cecilee Wilson, a closed caption stenographer, typed the words of the Mass on a screen for the hearing impaired.
The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City, celebrated the Mass with the assistance of Monsignor Joseph Mayo, pastor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine; Father Eleazar Silva, associate pastor of the Cathedral; and Deacon Lynn Johnson. The bishop said the Mass was called “Catholics Can” because he and the commission wanted to honor all the achievements of so many who have accomplished so much and who have met very serious challenges in their lives. “These people have succeeded in facing those challenges and have been such wonderful members of our community,” said Bishop Wester in his welcome.
In his homily, the prelate said Jesus speaks to us in our sufferings and our challenges. “Our focus is not on the challenge, our focus is on your success, on all that you’ve accomplished, about the kind of human beings you are because of the way you have grown through your suffering and through your challenges,” he said. “That’s why we are calling the Mass Catholics Can. We want to celebrate with you and we want to share your victory and your joy that you’ve accomplished much.”
Bishop Wester also said in his homily that accomplishments are measured in different ways. He said how much money we make or where we live mean absolutely nothing; what counts is love. “When we meet our maker, we will be judged on how well we loved because God is love,” he said. “The one who abides in love abides in God.”
“When the bishop requested that we call this Mass Catholics Can, that is what was so valuable to me,” said Kathryn Larson, a member of the commission. “We all have a disability of some kind. It was great to celebrate the gifts of all people. I believe we all have gifts and God gave us these gifts to share. Because you are disabled is nothing to mourn, it’s to be joyful that you have a gift to share yourself or that you can open doors for others to share with you.”
Larson, a member of Saint Helen Parish in Roosevelt, is involved in religious education. At St. Helen, the teachers are encouraging the message that we are all the children of God and God is love, not hate, anger, bitterness or resentment. Larson teaches the confirmation class at her parish; her assistant is a man with mental health issues. “He is a very nice young man, and he needs to feel valued the same as anyone else does,” said Larson. “It also teaches the students that we all have gifts.”
The Student Ambassadors from Juan Diego Catholic High School served as ushers for the Mass. They were impressed and amazed to see how many people came to support the disabilities Mass.
“It’s nice that the Catholic Church recognizes people with disabilities and helps them with their struggles and gives faith and hope to their caretakers because that can be a time-consuming job,” said Juan Diego junior Bridget McNulty.
“It was great to see how much these people have accomplished despite all the challenges they have had to overcome,” said Elizabeth Caldwell, a junior at Juan Diego.
Printed with permission from Intermountain Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Salt Lake City.