Cardinal Wuerl Celebrates Mass White Mass Honoring Gifts of Persons with Special Needs

Monday, November 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, celebrated the Archdiocese of Washington’s annual White Mass on Sunday, which honors the gifts of all persons with disabilities and those with mental health challenges, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.

Father William Byrne, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac delivered the homily. The homily encouraged all in attendance to embrace one another, serve one another, and welcome one another. He especially encouraged those involved in special needs ministry to both accept and receive love. “For those involved in this special ministry, every day we meet women and men who are like the Gospel’s widow.  In the mystical hug that is discipleship, mom’s and dad’s, brothers and sister, friends and neighbors, caregivers all, are the modern day vision of this Gospel.  They sacrifice but they also receive.”

In this giving and receiving, the mystical body is able to see the love of Christ. Real love is Jesus’ love and Jesus’ love goes out of its way for the other, Fr. Byrne reminded the congregation.  “The mandate to show forth the love of Christ is why I know that Cardinal Wuerl founded the White Mass,” said Fr. Byrne. “The White Mass is not just a nice thing to do. It is something we have to do.”

Each year, the White Mass brings national, regional and local leaders together in prayer with those who have special needs and their caregivers. The Mass takes its name from the color’s connection to baptism and new life in the Church. All those who attend are invited to wear white as a symbolic renewal of their baptismal vows.

Catholics are taught to look beyond the disability to see the person and their gifts, interests and unique personality and to recognize that each person is an important member of the Body of Christ. In 1995, the Catholic Bishops issued the Sacramental Guidelines for Persons with Disabilities which states: “By reason of their baptism, all Catholics are equal in dignity in the sight of God and have the same divine calling.”

The Archdiocese of Washington’s Department of Special Needs Ministries hosts this annual liturgy. The archdiocese has a proud legacy of serving Catholics and community members with special needs. This effort, begun nearly three decades ago, continues today with outreach to clergy, parish, ministry and nonprofit partners, including support for mothers receiving a prenatal diagnosis of a disability, parish-based catechetical programs for students with special needs, adult faith experiences for deaf Catholics and outreach to veterans with a service-related disability or service-related PTSD.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 95 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Lindsey Frechou
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