One of the biggest next steps for accepting autistics in the Church is having sensory-friendly Masses at least in every city for those on the spectrum overwhelmed by Mass. Autistics process sensory data differently so ordinary sensory experiences for others can overwhelm us.
My Background on Sensory-Friendly Masses
I have written about this before and been interviewed on it a few times. Here’s a mini index in chronological order:
- A sensory-friendly Mass I did in Calgary
- A video on sensory issues in Mass
- Interview on the PrayTell Blog
- Interview on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati podcast
- St. Louis Review article
Fort Wayne Starts a Sensory-Friendly Mass
What I want to focus on today is a new sensory-friendly Mass in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Here’s a report from the diocesan paper.
According to the National Autism Association autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder, with one in 54 children diagnosed with it. Autism is often accompanied by sensory processing disorder, which can cause overstimulation to the affected person when lights are too bright, sounds are too loud or things happen unexpectedly.
The sensory-friendly Mass addresses some of those reactions, and the practice is growing within the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne recently began hosting a special Sunday afternoon Mass dedicated to meeting this need.
Father Jay Horning is one of the parish’s parochial vicars and was appointed interim pastor while Father Daniel Scheidt went on sabbatical during the fall. Father Horning had already been considering reinstituting a Sunday afternoon Mass when parishioner Sarah Olson approached him about the possibility of a sensory-friendly Mass, so he chose to “give it a distinct purpose,” he stated.
Olson is the mother of nine children, one of whom – John – has autism and two others who were born deaf and now have cochlear implants. “We’ve always been on this journey, this search for how we can have a big family, go to Mass together and have our son with us and our other children and be part of the Mass,” she said.
Read more on their website if you want the full story.
Please help Identify Sensory-Friendly Masses
Right now, I’m trying to make a map of sensory-friendly Masses around the USA and Canada. (I will post it once done in a few weeks but not quite yet.) If you know of one, please leave a comment or use the contact form on this site. (Comments are moderated so you can ask I not post the comment if you just want to inform me of a Mass you know about.)