Daily communicant, Giselle Fernandez,rn23, used a cane to walk to the podium to read the First Reading at the SecondrnAnnual Blessing Mass and Community Fair at St. Philip the Apostle Church inrnPasadena. Blind since birth, Giselle couldn't see the standing-room-only crowd.

At the podium, Giselle warmed heartsrnas she read a reading from the book of Genesis using her own Braille dailyrnmissal.

“I was excited, but nervous. It isrnreally an honor to read at Mass,” said Giselle.

Exemplifying the true spirit of thernBlessing Mass, Giselle never let her visual impairment stop her from pursuingrna purposeful life. Giselle obtained her high school diploma from the CaliforniarnSchool for the Blind in Fremont while commuting each week with her mother torncomplete her studies. In the future, she plans to go to college.

“I believe that by acknowledging ourrndifferences, we are not so different in truth. We all have some disabilities asrnwell as abilities,” said Giselle.

The Blessing Mass, held on the firstrnSunday of Lent, encourages all people to be compassionate toward those who arernsuffering, whether physically, emotionally, academically, or even financially.

Father Joe Moniz, of St. Philip thernApostle Church, said the homily. He likened Lent to a “desert” and said “it’srnwhere a person must seek God in adversity.” Father Joe reminded therncongregation that “each of us have disabilities. Only God can lift us up.”

People with special needsrnparticipated in the Mass. Some of the ushers had Down Syndrome, an altar serverrnsuffered with a chronic brain tumor, and a woman living with juvenilernrheumatoid arthritis gave a personal testimony of living with the disease.

Julianne Batiste, who is arnparishioner and member of the Special Needs Ministry for St. Philip thernApostle, told Angelus News about her childhood growing up with juvenilernrheumatoid arthritis.

“I was in and out of doctor’srnoffices, but I was never teased or excluded,” said Julianne.

It is her hope that all special needsrnpeople are treated like “children of God.”

AfterrnMass, parishioners attended a community fair where more than 30 vendors offeredrneverything from Seeing Eye dog services, hearing tests, home health carernproviders for senior citizens, and samples of food from California PizzarnKitchen. Boy Scouts handed out bottles of Holy Water provided by the CarmeliternSisters. The Pasadena Fire Department offered a “sight challenge” and childrenrnplayed a tactile version of Connect Four. California State Assemblyman AnthonyrnPortantino and Field Deputy for Katherine Barger, Christian Daly were inrnattendance.

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Children play tactile Connect Four at the Community Fair. (Julie Schnieders/Angelus News)