Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Deaf Church

Ed Peters talks today about deafness and its place in the Church and how the Church ministers to those who are deaf. He quotes from and responds to an article in Zenit from the 1st where a priest was interviewed on the issues facing deaf Catholics such as sign language, participation in Mass and vocations.

I'm not going to rehash the good doctor's remarks, but I'll make a few points of my own. To start off, I am a deaf Catholic. I was not deaf from birth, rather I lost my hearing over time and only reached complete deafness as a young adult. I don't necessarily identify with the 'Deaf' community and at this point, my sign language skills are rather meager.

On participation in Mass:
I go to Mass with hearing people in a parish that does not provide any kind of services. And that's fine for me. I have my missal for the readings, I follow along based on what Father is doing, I have continuous silence in which to contemplate the Divine. I miss singing, both singing myself and listening to it, but it's not something that bothers me too much anymore. Mostly my problem is staying focused thanks to the fact that it's just me and my silence, but we all have our crosses to bear.

Personally, if I had the option of an on-site closed captioning service, I would consider it. Dr. Peters makes a point about how reading closed captions does not necessarily fit in with 'active participation', but having used captioning throughout my later years of university that it can be quite useful and does not hamper at all 'active participation' if you consider what goes on in the usual university classroom.

On the other Sacraments:
I take along a notepad to Confession. I usually write out what I have to confess beforehand simply because it's speedy and leaves the priest time to write down whatever he wants regarding penance and absolution. Even if it was available, I wouldn't think to take in with me a translator of some kind. Being out there in the world beyond hearing, but not having much contact with the wider Deaf community, that kind of personal contact is always welcomed.

On Vocations:
On this issue, I cannot necessarily speak with clarity. While discerning a vocation, I emailed the vocations director of the diocese (who is now vice-rector of NAC in Rome I believe) and he was quite helpful, even providing me with some info on deaf priests in other dioceses. Later, I met with the director of vocations for the local Jesuit province and after a cordial conversation where we discussed my various health issues, we came away with a conclusion that the priesthood wasn't right for me, but not because of any issue with my deafness per se.

Anyway, that's just a few of my thoughts, not very well formed, in response to Dr. Peters' comments. It's not something Dr. Peters addressed directly, but I would posit that while ministering to the deaf is important, simply because of my situation, I think that ministering to those who once had hearing and then don't is a ministry of its own that overlaps with but is not the same as a ministry for the deaf in general.

No comments: