Published August 1, 2013
WASHINGTON (CNS)—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 celebrated 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 shrine’s Crypt Church.
The bishop 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.”
Both clergy and laity made up the 150 people who attended the July 14-19 conference, held at Gallaudet University in Washington under the theme “All the Earth Praise the Lord.” 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.” 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, of Seoul, South Korea, a Gallaudet graduate and the first Asian deaf priest, spoke on “My Personal Experience in the Asian and Korean Deaf Culture.” In his workshop, Uganda native Father Paul Zirimenya described “Full Religious Citizenship for Ugandan Deaf Catholics.” Father Zirimenya has been serving at San Francisco’s St. Benedict Parish for the Deaf.
Father Gerard Trancone, chaplain for deaf ministries 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.
Laureen Lynch-Ryan, coordinator of deaf ministries for the Archdiocese of Washington, worked for two years with a committee planning the conference that eventually included participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea and Africa.