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Orchard Park parish hosts inclusive Christmas Mass

The service includes quieter music, dimmer lights, and is shorter than a typical Catholic Mass. It's so popular that there are plans for an Easter Mass.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A church in Orchard Park waited until Thursday night to hold a very special Christmas Mass because this one is more inclusive.

“It includes everybody and anybody who has special needs, and it's a shortened mass," organizer Heidi Mack said. “Dimmed lights, quieter music, and we allow people to walk around as they see fit to make it more of an enjoyable experience for them."

Mack leads Saint Bernadette's Open Doors Ministry, and for her organizing the inclusive Christmas Mass is a labor of love.

"I can't tell you how many countless people come up to us and tell us how pleased they are. We actually had one person come up to us last year, who they have not been to mass in like 20 years, and they decided to come, and they felt so welcomed, so awesome, so filled with the Christmas spirit that they wanted to come back," Mack said.

The parish held the first inclusive Christmas Mass last year.

"Wow. We had about a hundred people. It was just so welcomed. This is why we decided to do it again, and then that's why we scheduled it for April for Easter because it's like there is a need," Mack said.

It's so popular, Mack is planning an Easter Mass, and there's a picnic in August. The parish also has a sensory room for families to use any time.

“I think it's a giant step, what we need to do, because there is a need out there for people with special needs," Mack said. “To be part of their whole community, to be, it's OK if I walk around, it's OK if I make noise, it's OK. And this is what we want, and this is what the sole purpose of doing what I do."

Open Doors Ministry is open to any family and is always in need of volunteers.

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