Catholic church offering gluten-free communion bread option for the faithful

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff.co.nz

St Joseph's Waitara student Amene-ia Jury, 12, talks about being gluten free.

Being gluten-free has never made Amene-ia Jury feel any different but her dietary choice has seen a shift in practice at her north Taranaki church.

Amene-ia, who is 12, is the first parishioner at St Joseph's Church in Waitara to be provided with a gluten-free communion host.

She was among six children who completed their first Holy Communion last Sunday and when she did, a little bit of history was made.

St Joseph's Waitara student Amene-ia Jury, 12, is the first in the town's parish to receive a gluten-free communion host.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

St Joseph's Waitara student Amene-ia Jury, 12, is the first in the town's parish to receive a gluten-free communion host.

But while Amene-ia, along with her mother, might be the first to receive the gluten-free wafer in Waitara, it was a growing request around the region and in other parts of New Zealand as well.

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Mark Richards, of the Catholic Diocese in Palmerston North, said a set of national guidelines for schools and parishes was released last year to help provide direction on the issue.

St Joseph's Parish Waitara's Father Freddie Barte provides Amene-ia Jury with a gluten-free communion wafer.
ANDY JACKSON/FAIRFAX NZ

St Joseph's Parish Waitara's Father Freddie Barte provides Amene-ia Jury with a gluten-free communion wafer.

"It is an issue as there is growing awareness of gluten intolerance and so, we do our best," Richards said. 

He said a modified host or communion wafer is available to use that fulfils the church's obligations to the faith but is also suitable for those who suffer from gluten intolerance. The traditional altar bread is made of wheat flour and water. 

A special pyx or round receptacle is used to hold the host and a separate wine chalice is included in the ceremony, which is free of any communion wafer in order to avoid contamination.

Gluten-free communion hosts are available for Catholic parishioners who need them.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Gluten-free communion hosts are available for Catholic parishioners who need them.

Amene-ia, who is a Year 8 student at St Joseph's School in Waitara, said she had been gluten-free and vegan since birth. 

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It means forsaking junk food, meat and dairy products among other things.

"It's a pretty strict diet, sometimes it's a little hard," she said. 

It meant she often had to take her own food to events but she never felt like it made her stand out in anyway. 

"Everyone accepts me for who I am. I don't feel worried about anything," she said.

"For me being gluten-free, it's a healthy way," she said.

She said she was happy to find out her diet was no stumbling block to being able to take communion at church, where she was also planning to become an altar server.

"It's nice to know that they can provide for me and mum and also to help all the others around if there are other people gluten-free," she said.

 - Stuff

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