We are preeminently an Eucharistic community and a sacrament, a living sign of Jesus Christ’s presence. The Eucharist which we celebrate together is both the sign and the means of our present unity, as well as of the still greater unity to be achieved in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. (RCAN Mission Statement: As Church; Constitution of the Liturgy, 2; Lumen Gentium, 1)
The Church continues to affirm the dignity of every human being, and to grow in knowledge and understanding of the gifts and needs of her members who live with disabilities. Likewise, the Church recognizes that every parish community includes members with disabilities, and earnestly desires their active participation. All members of the Body of Christ are uniquely called by God by virtue of their Baptism. In light of this call, the Church seeks to support all in their growth in holiness, and to encourage all in their vocations. Participating in, and being nourished by, the grace of the sacraments is essential to this growth in holiness. Catholic adults and children with disabilities, and their families, earnestly desire full and meaningful participation in the sacramental life of the Church. (Revised Guidelines of the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, Introduction)
In this regard, as it issues a revised and expanded Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wishes to reiterate what was said in previous pastoral statements on this issue:
It is essential that all forms of the liturgy be completely accessible to persons with disabilities, since these forms are the essence of the spiritual tie that binds the Christian community together. To exclude members of the parish from these celebrations of the life of the Church, even by passive omission, is to deny the reality of that community. Accessibility involves far more than physical alterations to parish buildings. Realistic provision must be made for Catholics with disabilities to participate fully in the Eucharist and other liturgical celebrations. (Pastoral Statement of the US Bishops on Persons with Disabilities, 23; Revised Guidelines of the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities, Introduction)
Parish sacramental celebrations should be accessible to persons with disabilities and open to their full, active, and conscious participation, according to their capacity. Pastoral ministers should not presume to know the needs of persons with disabilities, but should rather—before all else—consult with them or their advocates before making determinations about the accessibility of a parish’s facilities and the availability of its programs, policies, and ministries. Full accessibility should be the goal for every parish, and these adaptations are to be an ordinary part of the liturgical life of the parish.5 (Revised Guidelines, 3)
Difficult situations may be encountered by those making pastoral decisions. Dioceses are encouraged to establish appropriate policies for handling such instances, which respect the rights of all involved, and which ensure the necessary provision of evaluation and recourse. (Revised Guidelines, 8)
All persons with disabilities have gifts to contribute to the whole Church. When persons with disabilities are embraced and welcomed, and invited to participate fully in all aspects of parish community life, the Body of Christ is more complete. (Revised Guidelines, Conclusion)
Very often, individuals who have developmental, intellectual and/or other disabilities and those who love them do not feel comfortable attending their local parish liturgy, although they ARE very welcome. Inclusive Family Masses address this concern and invites them in particular to come and enjoy celebrating the Eucharist with other members of the surrounding community. All are welcome.