In the light-filled chapel of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Capuchin Franciscan Father William Gillum led a unique prayer service designed for persons with disabilities during the Conference on Faith, Deafness and Disabilities held in mid-March in Washington.
About 15 caregivers and parish staffers sat silently in a circle of chairs listening to classical music as Father Gillum walked them through this prayer form which is made to be simple, accessible and engaging for those with disabilities. The sensorial service began with the passing of the priest's stole to each person to touch. One participant helped light a candle, others had water poured on their hands.
Then, Father Gillum gave a simple greeting to each person, saying, "Welcome to church. Welcome to God's house. We are here together. We are friends."
He followed that with a short prayer and guidance of each participant as they touched the pages of the Lectionary before Father Gillum read an adapted Scripture passage. During his equally short reflection, he talked about God making each part of the human body and making every one unique, and he had the group join hands to pray the Our Father.
Next, Father Gillum explained to the group that in an actual service with people who have disabilities, he and other facilitators would help the participants do a writing activity and then allow them each to meditate on an image of Jesus.
Then, before everyone gathered at Blessed Sacrament left silently, he called each person by name and told them, "May Jesus bless you, be with you today and give you all good things."
Father Gillum is the chaplain at McGuire Memorial in Pittsburgh, a home for those with mental and physical disabilities, where he leads similar prayer services. He has written a book on the subject, "Awakening Spiritual Dimensions: Prayer Services With Persons With Severe Disabilities."
During an earlier workshop at the third annual Conference on Faith, Deafness and Disabilities organized by the Archdiocese of Washington March 19, he explained the purpose of the disabilities prayer service: to create "a sacred flow of prayer ... in an uninterrupted, structured and sequential motion of worship, evoking the divine, leading the participants into contemplative and intuitive moments of communing with God."
The service, he said, is meant to access the senses with touch, scent, sound, sight and a slow pace. Father Gillum said the key is to keep things simple and not be too wordy. In McGuire services, he also likes to light candles that add to a calming atmosphere -- "Home Sweet Home" made by Yankee Candles is a favorite -- and have participants ring bells as part of the service... [full article
(Source: CNS - Prayer service for the senses reaches out to those with disabilities)