Sem Matthew Lo, assisted by interpreter, briefs the members of Deaf Ministry on the Synodal Process at SHC hall Jan 9

By Agnes Chai (Source: Deaf Ministry report)

Feb 18 2022

THE deaf ministry under Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish, known as the Sacred Heart Ministry to Deaf People, got together Jan 9 to embark on their group synodal conversations, as directed by the parish.

To facilitate those who were unable to travel to the parish for the physical meeting, the consultation process was also available via Zoom. Seminarian Matthew Lo, on behalf of parish priest Fr Paul Lo, walked them through the process.

It was a small number that could make it for the physical process, comprising of four deaf (a young married deaf couple with a family, a newly married young woman, and a convert middle-aged bachelor) and three hearing (a parent/teacher helper and two interpreters cum catechists).

After a briefing on the synodal consultation process and praying the Synodal Prayer, the participants were guided through the discussion time with the conversation questionnaire to help them to reflect and think through.

The parish has chosen for the conversation questionnaire three themes focusing on: A) Communion – Companions on the journey; B) Participation – Dialogue in church and society; and C) Mission – Sharing responsibility for our common mission.

The physical group has expressed openness to… donate to the poor or to help clean Mother Earth, organize retreat programs together…

The conversations that were collected from those who were present reflected that their experience of being church in the parish has been a positive one. They have experienced companionship/fellowship, kindness and sharing of both material needs (food) and spiritual needs (RCIA, Alpha, Sunday School).

The physical group has expressed openness to promote collaboration between them and the different hearing groups in the parish, such as together with the choir to participate in preparing songs for Mass interpretation, participate with hearing groups in charity drive together to donate to the poor or to help clean Mother Earth, organize retreat programs together, organize together events for deaf and hearing children, make friends (socialize and dialogue) with one another, etc.

As for mission, the group accepts that they are co-responsible for the mission of the church in serving others and sharing the good news to others. To optimize their service, the group hopes the parish will promote sign language and encourage more signing priests and religious who can communicate well with them.

The Deaf Ministry Synodal Consultation begins with Bible Enthronement and the Synodal Prayer, led by Sem Matthew

However, due to lack of deaf ministries in other parishes and in residential schools in the rural areas (outreach to Catholic deaf children), the Sacred Heart Ministry to Deaf People has over time become transparochial in nature and extended its outreach beyond the Cathedral parish.

The deaf people/children have difficulty in processing and understanding the order of written language, which is used by the hearing to communicate because of the lack of knowledge of signing.

Virtual conversations have shown up other challenges, namely, the deaf people/children have difficulty in processing and understanding the order of written language, which is used by the hearing to communicate because of the lack of knowledge of signing. This is because the poor families in the rural areas, particularly those who are deaf, lack education for various reasons. Some drop out, some feel that it is unnecessary to send their deaf child/children to school, some are simply not aware that there are special schools for the deaf, while some register too late.

In following the synodal path of Pope Francis, the Deaf Ministry cherishes the hope that the time has come for the church to fully recognize and address the special needs of the Disabled Community (deaf, blind, developmental disability, wheelchair, etc).

The deaf community inadvertently falls into the category of marginalized as their special needs are more often being forgotten or set aside by their hearing families, community, church, society due to the lack of understanding.

Not being able to hear cuts them off from people who hear, thus affecting their relationships, and being excluded from daily communication in family, church, community, and society events.

Through this “listening and walking together” process, the group hopes to overcome with the parish/diocese some of the challenges faced by them, namely, 1) recognize deaf people are people too; 2) bridge the deaf and hearing worlds; 3) create more community awareness; 4) promote sign language as one of the “spoken” languages besides BM, Kadazan Dusun, Chinese and English; 5) make sign language a necessity for priests, religious and lay, especially in ministering the Sacraments of Eucharist, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony to enable meaningful reception of the Sacraments; 6) foster communication; 7) give equal opportunities to deaf people to serve/participate in the life and service of the church, eg. wardens, altar servers, and 8) equal opportunities to the Sacraments (homebound Holy Communion) for the bedridden/immobile.