Bishop celebrates special First Communion Mass for children with special needs

Bishop Carl A. Kemme gets a hug from one of the First Communicants after a Mass Tuesday, May 14, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita. To the left is Jessica Lopez, the director of the Ministry With Persons With Disabilities. (Advance photo by Baylee Holmes)

Jessica Lopez started weeping soon after Bishop Carl A. Kemme began celebrating a special First Communion Mass last month.

“I didn’t make it 10 minutes into the Mass without crying because of how much each of the kids wanted to receive,” she said.

Lopez’s tears were flowing at a First Communion liturgy for children with special needs. Seven boys and girls received Jesus for the first time Tuesday, May 14, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

The director of the diocesan Ministry With Persons With Disabilities said it wasn’t hard to get the students to participate in class. “They wanted to be there. They put in the work every week. It was so heartwarming to see that.”
To receive the Eucharist worthily, one must be free from mortal sin, fast for one hour, and believe the host to be the real presence of Jesus Christ – body, blood, soul, and divinity – under the appearance of bread and wine.

The students were able to understand that, Lopez said. “They truly believed that the host is Jesus and were able to show us each and every time that this is Jesus and is different than any other food.”
The parents were active participants in the class, she said.

“They had to make sure the assignments were done. Some of our friends are nonverbal and are not able to read so the parents were required to do the activities with them every week.”

The ministry received a lot of good feedback about the instruction and will make the class available every other year. A confirmation class is planned to begin in the spring for the children with special needs who just made their First Communion. The confirmation class will also be offered every other year.
Bishop Kemme said the service gave him comfort.

“It was a great joy to give First Communion to these young people, something I looked forward to as a parish priest and miss very much as a bishop,” he said.

“That day in the office happened to be a bit more stressful than usual, but when I saw the smiles, excitement, and joy in the faces of these special persons, the stress all melted away. It was a great blessing for me to be with them on this solemn and most happy occasion.”