Autism Awareness . . .

Awareness raises our understanding and allows us to dispel misinformation and mystery as well as to gain more knowledge of Autism so as to better respond to it in all phases of its manifestations. Awareness also implies raising it to a level of understanding whereby all the characteristics and behaviors of persons in the Autism Spectrum may become better accepted and celebrated as unique gifts from God.

Through programs to assist families in accessing services as well as bring families together into parish life – both in Liturgical Celebration, Sacramental Preparation and Social Events – VITALity strives to speak on behalf of those in our diocese with Autism and help tell their story.

Information has been sent to all our parishes to be included in their church bulletin and Prayer of the Faithful during mass. Special Prayers for parish gatherings were included that ask God’s unique graces upon these special families and their children.

In addition, a very important piece on the ways to show true welcome to persons on the Autism Spectrum or with any “other abilities” as they join us at mass. How important it is that as a parish community we welcome those with different abilities than our own when we gather as the Body of Christ to Celebrate the Eucharist!

We encourage, especially this month, our parishes to have some “Masses of Inclusion” and invite our brothers and sisters on the Autism Spectrum along with their families, to celebrate as family, at the Lord’s table in a mass that makes certain accommodations for those in attendance.

Also this month, on Sunday, April 24, we as a diocese, will celebrate a very special Mass of Inclusion for all those who can attend, at 2:30 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Family, in Sewell, NJ,  Fr. Robert Hughes, our Vicar General, will be the main celebrant.

This April, let’s all pay special attention to those among us on the Autism Spectrum.  Let’s work to view Autism as a “different ability” rather than a “disability”.  To look past what we might see as limitations, and see the gifts that Autism may have given to that person.

As advocates for those on the Autism Spectrum who may not have the strongest voice among us, we at VITALity, pledge our commitment and our energy to promote welfare of these our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters – in all phases of being – raising them to the highest level of dignity and self-worth.  We ask that you do the same in your own way this month, welcoming, embracing, engaging and just plain loving them with a heart formed in the image of Jesus who tells us. . .”Let the children come to me”.

For more information about Autism and Asperger’s, you can select the Support Services for Families with Aging Children on the Autism Spectrum/Ministry with Persons with Disabilities section of our website or contact the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Autism Task Force at www.ncpd.org.

By Deacon Jerry Jablonowski, Executive Director
VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services