By Tim Harfmann
Father Jamie Dennis doesn’t prepare for Mass like other Catholic priests. He needs help because he’s lost almost all of his eyesight.
“It’s like looking through a straw. That’s what I have left. And what I can see through that is not clear at all,” said Father Dennis.
But that didn’t stop him from celebrating a special Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church in Chelsea, Manhattan. It was the feast day of St. Lucy, patroness of the blind and visually impaired. A priest of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., Father Dennis traveled to New York to honor the fourth-century Italian saint.
After having her eyes ripped out for being Catholic, it is believed St. Lucy was still able to see. She was tortured and died a martyr. “Her name means light, so she’s also a light pointing to the greater light of Christ for us,” said Father Dennis.
During the liturgy, the priest used Braille books provided by the Xavier Society for the Blind. For over a century, the nonprofit organization gives free Braille and audio books to thousands of Catholics across the U.S. and in 20 other countries that they can grow closer to Christ.
Members of the faithful in the pews also used the Braille books.
“It really embodies what we do because folks are able to witness our clients, our patrons, using our materials to practice their faith,” said Malachy Fallon, executive director of the Xavier Society.
Sharlene Kraft served as a lector at the Mass. She’s legally blind and a parishioner at Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows.
“If there’s something I can do that benefits the Church, that’s good. Xavier allows me to do that. Without Xavier, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the way I do,” she said.
Twelve-year-old Mara Hug of Kansas, who only has 20 percent of her eyesight, also uses Braille books so she can serve at the altar. “It’s easier to read so I can focus more on the serving.”
Hug prays to St. Lucy and plans to take the name Lucy when she receives the sacrament of confirmation next year.
After Mass, Hug and other worshippers venerated a sacred relic, touching and kissing the patron saint who guides them.