" There was never to be denial of Communion to this child. "
The special needs child in St. Aloysius Parish, Jackson who has been the subject of a viral social media campaign and widespread news coverage will be able to receive First Holy Communion this year, according to a statement posted Feb. 28 by Father John P. Bambrick, pastor.

Following up on an earlier message in which he first announced a path forward for the child to receive the Sacrament without delay, Father Bambrick said that the matter had “generated a great deal of confusion and concern, which I would like to address.”

The statement reads: “While we had tried to adapt our preparation process to accommodate the child’s special needs, there was an unfortunate breakdown in communication that led to a misunderstanding. A delay in receiving the Sacrament was discussed until readiness could be assessed; there was never to be denial of Communion to this child.” (To read the full statement, visit the St. Aloysius Parish website.)

Father Bambrick recounted the effort to find a path for the youngster to move forward with the Sacrament. He wrote, “With the guidance and support of Bishop David O’Connell, C.M., we were able to discern a way for the child to receive First Holy Communion without any delay. We have made the family aware of this development and hope to be able to meet with them to discuss it. Their child continues to be welcome in our program, and will be able to receive First Holy Communion this year.”

The matter first drew public attention following a discussion between the child’s family and the parish about the need to assess his preparedness to receive First Eucharist this year. A social media post by the parents, in which they describe their son as autistic and non-verbal, reported that he would not be able to receive the Sacrament this year and was being “shunned from the Catholic faith because of his inability to communicate.”  

The post went immediately viral, generating hundreds of comments, as well as many calls and emails to the parish and the Diocese.

Reflecting on how the issue was managed, Father Bambrick stated, “I regret that this matter evolved as it did and, for our part, acknowledge that it could have been handled differently.”

He added, “It is extremely unfortunate that, as a result of this controversy, there are families with special needs children who may now doubt the Church’s commitment to welcome all children into their religious education programs. Nothing could be further from the truth; special needs children and adults are welcomed and ministered to in parishes across this Diocese, and throughout the Church, including this parish.”

It was not known at the time of this writing whether the family had responded to the request for a meeting with the parish or where the plans stood for the child’s reception of the Sacrament.

Pastoral care and catechetical  preparation for those with special needs is a clear mandate for the Church and is carried out in the parishes, as well as special programs run throughout the Diocese.To learn more, visit the web  page for the Holy Innocents Society.