The third Sunday in Advent, known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, was fully experienced by the congregation at the annual Mass to celebrate people with disabilities on December 11. This Mass is hosted at Holy Cross Church by St. Catherine Center for Special Needs in Fairfield.
It has been customary at this Mass to offer the opportunity for individuals to receive one or more Sacraments of Initiation with preparation that has taken place outside the typical faith formation program. Gail Mikolsky, director of parish and community outreach for the center, worked with directors of religious education throughout the diocese to coordinate preparation and participation. This year, the community outreach faith formation worked with 19 young people from 13 different parishes and St. Catherine Center who had prepared to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation or First Holy Communion.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, joined by Msgr. Tom Powers, vicar general for the diocese, celebrated Mass with a church filled with family members of the 19 young people, St. Catherine Center board members and staff, Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and friends of St. Catherine Center. Bishop Caggiano, in his homily, made the distinction between happiness and joy. “The third Sunday in Advent is about joy and encouragement,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Joy is a lasting feeling that these young people today will have for the rest of their lives. Today we are witness to the healing power of Jesus and the message of joy and hopefulness,” he concluded.
“This annual Mass reminds us that all are welcomed in our Church,” commented Helen Burland, executive director of the center. “Each of us must work to encourage the full participation of all people in the life of our parishes and the diocese.” A mom of a First Communion recipient shared, “I never expected this to be possible. My whole family is rejoicing together.”
(St. Catherine Center for Special Needs is located at 760 Tahmore Drive, Fairfield. For more information, call 203.540.5381 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)