The Joy of Sharing the Mass of Inclusion with my Grandson
By: Dorothy A. Bruner

My grandson, Jacob, is a delightful, inquisitive, smart and witty 10 year old boy; who happens to fall under the umbrella of the Autism Spectrum.

At an early age, Jake expressed a deep love for Jesus and Mary. He would point and stare at my picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (which now hangs in his room), and take my statue of the Blessed Mother off of my dresser to hug and kiss her. Each trip to my house began and ended with loving greetings to Mary.

As many Catholic families do, we introduced Jake to Mass as an infant. However, as he grew older, Mass became an over-whelming ordeal that usually ended with a meltdown.  Even so, whenever we drove past our parish, Jake would point and say “Hi Jesus, I miss you. I love you”.

Thankfully, in the spring of 2015, that was about to change.  I noticed an advertisement for the Mass of Inclusion at Holy Family Parish in Sewell in our Church bulletin.  I called my daughter and told her that I would like to give it a try.  Jake and I attended and it was a rousing success!

The atmosphere at the Inclusion Mass is very calm and quiet. With only one reading and a shorter Homily, it is geared perfectly for these special people.  Better still, it is a no judgment zone.  If a child acts out, it is accepted graciously by all.

Jake is always so excited to go to Mass. He reminds himself to use his “library voice”.  He looks forward to the Gospel and “learning about Jesus”.  Sometimes he can’t contain himself and he’ll shout out “Jesus!” or “Amen!”  He may not know the words to the songs, but that doesn’t stop him from happily singing out.

At the Sign of Peace, he will shake the hands of those around us and say “Nice to meet you. Am I doing a good job?”  Everyone always cheerfully greets him back with a “You’re doing a great job, Buddy”.

Jake has not yet received his First Holy Communion, so he will go up with me, fold his arms and say “Blessing please”. He has told me that this makes him feel special.  In February, he was asked to help take up the gifts. He was so proud. The Inclusion Mass is a special time to which we both look forward.

Unfortunately, Holy Family is the only parish in Gloucester County that has an Inclusion Mass, and he is not always available for me to take him on the third Saturday of each month.  It is my hope that more area parishes will recognize the need for this Mass and begin to include it in their schedules.

Jake is currently in a special education PREP class at Mary Mother of Mercy Parish where he is preparing for his First Holy Communion.