Challenges, Rewards of Teaching Deaf Children

Catechist extraordinaire Lisa Mladinich, whose weekly column “Be an Amazing Catechist” has become a first-stop resource for RCIA facilitators and CCD teachers, has for the last two weeks been focusing on the challenges and rewards of serving the Deaf community of faith. Last week, she looked at the great needs within the church – what they are, and how well we are addressing them:

In November 2009, Pope Benedict met with 400 deaf and hearing Catholic clergy and lay people, from sixty-five different countries, many of whom work with the Deaf in various capacities. A number of recommendations were made concerning diocesan and parish service to the hearing-impaired, including that each diocese have at least one priest who is competent to serve as a liaison for the Deaf on issues of liturgy, sacraments, and catechesis, and that seminarians receive training and orientation in order to minister to the Deaf. Other suggestions involved diocesan registries of certified interpreters, vocation outreach, and more.

The Holy Father addressed the great barriers that deaf children and their families face even within the Church:

“Unfortunately experience has shown that hearing-impaired people do not always meet with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion,” the Pontiff said. That failure to gain acceptance, he said, illustrates “the deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man.”

Lisa follows up this week with a really interesting and well-done piece profiling Sr. Joan Mary Finn, O.P. who has spent 40 years specializing in this field as an educator on Long Island:

She still volunteers with the Deaf, whom she calls her “family.” She has worked with them for forty years, but she first spent eleven years teaching in parochial schools.

“It was the best preparation for working with the Deaf, because I demanded a lot from my hearing students, and I was used to having high standards. A deaf child can do so much if you expect it of him. But some of the teachers who had only worked with the Deaf made allowances for them; they’d let them off the hook and some children developed behavioral problems. I’ve always expected them to be responsible, to remember to bring in their books and do their work properly. It’s my job to get them ready for adult responsibilities.

Sr. Joan Mary shares creative teaching tips with Lisa, but they seem like ideas that can also be utilized by teachers and parents facing challenges with children. You’ll want to read it all, and pass it along to interested friends!

Sr. Joan Mary sounds like a wonder!

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