Signs of Faith: Washington Hosts Gathering of Deaf Catholics

Redemptorist Father Cyril Axelrod of London, right, who is both deaf and blind, participates in a July 16 Mass in the crypt church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, assisted by David Day. (CNS photo/Michael Hoyt, Catholic Standard) 

Details, from the Catholic Standard: 

With hands moving quickly through the air, members of the International Catholic Deaf Association signed all the responses in unison for a July 16 Mass held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington as part of their seventh biennial conference.

“We have been called to life, we have been called to holiness, we have been called to mystery,” said Washington Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez, homilist for the Mass in the Crypt Church. The bishop said he recalled many great professors during his own studies at Catholic University, but the one person he learned the most about Gospel values, never learned to read or write – his mother. “But she was a holy person,” Bishop Gonzalez added.

He urged the group, including a dozen priest concelebrants, to continue professing their faith. “A witness is somebody who proclaims the truth,” Bishop Gonzalez said. “With God’s help, all of us can do that.”

Later, the bishop apologized for not knowing sign language, but wanted to tell all the participants of the conference through the signing interpreters, “I love you, and God bless you.”

One hundred and fifty people, both clergy and laity, attended the six-day conference, “All the Earth Praise the Lord” held at Gallaudet University in Washington from July 14-19. In addition to touring St. Francis of Assisi Church and Center for Deaf Ministries in Landover Hills, Md., the conference featured addresses from four foreign-born deaf priests.

Redemptorist Father Cyril Axelrod of London is both deaf and blind and later this year will receive the Order of the British Empire for his work with the deaf and blind in Hong Kong. In addition to celebrating Mass, Father Axelrod presented a keynote address on his book, “And The Journey Begins.”

Additionally three deaf priests presented workshops at the conference. Jesuit Father Paul Fletcher also of London presented “A Deaf Perspective of Ignatian Spirituality.” Father Min Soo Park, a Gallaudet graduate and the first Asian deaf priest, spoke on “My Personal Experience in the Asian and Koren Deaf Culture.” Father Soo Park resides in Seoul, South Korea. In his workshop, Uganda native Father Paul Zirimenya described “Full Religious Citizenship for Ugandan Deaf Catholics.”

Father Gerard Trancone, chaplain for the Deaf Ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington, said the association began in 1949 when there were not any deaf clergy members. Today, he noted it is the deaf clergy leading the hearing clergy with at least 10 deaf clergy attending the conference.

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