Organizers of the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Philadelphia next week, have announced that the annual Mass of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia honoring the lives and gifts of those with disabilities, will be celebrated during the historic program.
The Mass will be celebrated Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Shrine of St. John Neumann, in St. Peter Church, which is located at 1019 North 5th Street, Philadelphia.
The principal celebrant of the Mass will be Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., who is also an alumnus of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Bishop Rhoades has served as episcopal moderator for the National Catholic Office for the Deaf.
The homilist for the Mass will be Father Mike Depcik, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who is deaf. He currently serves as director of Deaf Ministry for the Archdiocese of Detroit, Mich.
The Mass will also feature the Nevilaires Choir, which is composed of individuals who are blind and partially sighted. They will perform the prelude, while the choirs of Presentation B.V.M. Parish and St. Joseph Parish, both in Cheltenham, will provide the liturgical music.
The Deaf Apostolate’s Papal American Sign Language Choir will also be present, organizers have said, and will sign the official hymn of the World Meeting of Families, “Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom.”
This year’s installment of the annual celebration is being hosted by the archdiocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Deaf Apostolate and national Catholic organizations that serve the needs of those with disabilities.
“All are welcome to attend this special celebration, especially persons with disabilities, the deaf
community and families, friends, neighbors, and caregivers of those with disabilities,” organizers said in a statement.
A light reception supported by Our Sunday Visitor will be held following Mass, and free parking is available near the shrine.
Accommodations and accessibility during the World Meeting of Families, Papal visit
Organizers have also released details regarding accommodations during the World Meeting of Families:
Facilities and venues will be accessible to those in wheelchairs, and a team of sign language interpreters will be on hand for keynotes, liturgies and breakout sessions during the program as well.
Signers will provide interpretations of programming during the program at Independence Hall, as well as the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass, which will be broadcast on select screens throughout the Francis Festival grounds.
Guests who are blind or partially sighted will have access to audio descriptions through assistive listening devices, to be provided at the Festival of Families and the Papal Mass.
A reserved area in Von Colln Memorial Field – at 23rd and Pennsylvania Avenue – will be in place for those requiring audio descriptions. A Papal event ticket is required to access the field, and those interested should RSVP by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children with disabilities are welcome to participate in the Youth Congress held in the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and pastoral care attendants for children requiring individualized support are welcome to attend free of charge. While those attendants may be the child’s parent, each needs to be screened as volunteers prior to the conference. Designated spaces will be provided for children who might need a quiet rest area or sensory break, and volunteers with experience with children who have disabilities will be on hand to provide support.
Volunteers will be available throughout the programming to assist pilgrims in wheelchairs, and charging stations for electric wheelchairs will be available at Red Cross stations.
Approximately ten-percent of portable restrooms installed for the event, as well as all water facilities, food service and retail stations, will be ADA compliant and accessible.
Accommodations will be made for service animals for programming on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Independence Mall.