About 200 people, comprising mainly families with special needs members and their supporters, attended a special event for them on July 9 at the Church of the Holy Spirit.
The Everyone is Special event was conceived by parish priest Fr Andrew Wong who wanted to dedicate it to family members with special needs in this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Fr Andrew started the event with Mass. Two boys with special needs were altar servers. Theodore Wong, a teenager with autism, proclaimed the first reading and two girls in wheelchairs presented the offertory.
In his homily, Fr Andrew emphasised that people with special needs and their families were part of the parishes. Just because they might not be seen at Mass does not mean they are not there.
He said that these children and adults might be physically or mentally disabled, but they are not spiritually disabled. They are children of God, made in His image and likeness, just like everyone else.
Fr Andrew also apologised on behalf of the archdiocese to families with special needs for misjudging them, for not understanding them and for the times when the children were told to “keep quiet”. Tears welled up in the eyes of some members of these families as he said this.
After Mass, Fr Luke Fong gave a talk on God’s Mercy and Love for Families with Special Needs.
He cited Simon of Cyrene who had thrust upon him the difficult and humiliating task of carrying the cross for Jesus.
Fr Luke said that when people struggle to carry someone’s cross in their life, such as caring for a child with special needs, their lives were often “disrupted”.
During the talk, activities like craftwork, games and singing were held separately for the children so as to allow parents and caregivers to listen to the talk.
There was also the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with adoration, intercessory prayers and praying over.
Participants were invited to give testimonies of how God touched their lives in the midst of their struggles, caring for family members with special needs.
A mother of a 22-year-old boy with autism shared what she did many years ago to ensure that her son would be able to receive the sacraments. At that time, there were no catechism classes available to prepare children with special needs. She connected with another parent and together they started a class to prepare their children to receive the sacraments.
Today, the archdiocese has catechesis for those with special needs and families can bring their children to receive the sacraments.
Some parents with special needs children shared how they felt after the event.
Ms Jenny Thang, 60, mother of an adult daughter with special needs said she was very touched when Fr Andrew asked for forgiveness from families with special needs.
Mr Adrian Lim, 49, father of a 16-year-old boy with special needs felt that such an event needed to be embraced by every parish and should be held on a regular basis to promote better understanding, love and acceptance by the whole community.