Jul 13, 2014

Diocese holds first Purple Mass for those affected by dementia



Story and photos by Julie Beaulieu

SPRINGFIELD -- The first Purple Mass was celebrated at St. Michael's Cathedral Saturday, July 12, to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and to honor those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Msgr. Christopher Connelly was Mass presider. The Knights and Ladies of St. Peter Claver sponsored the event.

Joy Danita Allen, of the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Peter Claver, organized the Mass and attended with her 84-year-old mother, Doretha, also a member of the Ladies Auxiliary, who suffers from the disease.

Marcia Kenzi of the Springfield Alzheimer’s Association spoke to iobserve before the Mass.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain. Alzheimer’s causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior," said Kenzi. "Every six to seven seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Symptoms usually develop slowly, then, get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with someone’s everyday tasks of living.

"Many Americans dismiss the warning signs feeling that the symptoms are a normal part of aging, but Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging,” Kenzi said.

Approximately 120 people attended the Mass. Many wore purple. In addition, the Ladies Auxiliary handed out purple ribbons.

“We wanted to honor our mothers, as well as other members of the community, and bring support and comfort to everyone,” said Allen.

Allen, whose mother is wheelchair bound, continues to care for her at home. “One of the things we had discussed was that she wanted to remain in her home," Allen said. "So, I’m trying to honor that and am going to honor that as long as I can.”

“This very first one (Purple Mass) is in July, and we knew that the turn out would be a little low," Allen added. "But we are still pleased with the turnout.”

She said that next year the Mass will be held during a different month.

Speaking to iobserve after the Mass, Msgr. Connelly praised the members of the St. Peter Claver Society.

 “Here at St. Michael's Cathedral we are fortunate to have a very active St. Peter Claver Society, and a member of that group, Joy Allen, initiated the idea of having a Purple Mass and in cooperation with the other dedicated ladies, decided to sponsor the Mass, and to prepare and plan for it, and we are delighted that they did so,” he said.

“It’s been amazing to see how many people have relatives, friends and neighbors, who are in some way impacted by the illness, and we were honored to remember those who have difficulty remembering,” said Msgr. Connelly.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and dementia, log onto www.alz.org or call 1-800-272-3900.