Catholic DeaFest inspires a sense of hope

Catholic DeaFest inspires a sense of hope

On March 21, 200 Deaf Catholics from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware came together for a day of community, faith-sharing, and renewal at the fifth annual Catholic DeaFest, held at St. John of God Community Services in Westville Grove.

Sponsored by the New Jersey Pastoral Ministers with the Deaf, the event was themed “Love Jesus First.”

The DeaFest was an opportunity for the Deaf community to “come together in an inclusive celebration” with Deaf priests, and the liturgy celebrated in American Sign Language, said Sister Bonnie McMenamin, co-director of the Diocese of Camden’s Ministry With the Deaf/Persons With Disabilities.

The Mass was voice interpreted for the hearing, and there was Captioning at Real Time (CART) for those with hearing loss.

Father Paul Zirimenya, a Deaf priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, was the keynote speaker. He urged attendees to “keep their eyes fixed on Jesus first.”

Father Joe Bruce, a Deaf Jesuit priest from Worcester, Mass., also addressed the audience, helping the Deaf “Find God in All Things.”

With these Deaf priests’ witness and testimony, Deaf Catholics “felt a sense of Catholic identity, and the support of the Deaf community; these priests’ stories of oppression as Deafs, in church, society and even in their families, connected with attendees’ own experiences of being marginalized,” Sister Bonnie said.

“Attendees came away with a sense of hope,” she said. “They are not alone on the journey; the church is there to support them, as well as other Deaf believers.”

Photos by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos cdphotolibrary.smugmug.com Father Paul Zirimenya, left, a Deaf priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, instructs participants at the fifth annual DeaFest to keep their eyes “fixed on Jesus.” The event, which drew participants from several states, was held March 21 at St. John of God Community Services, Westville Grove.

Photos by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos cdphotolibrary.smugmug.com
Father Paul Zirimenya, left, a Deaf priest from the Archdiocese of San Francisco, instructs participants at the fifth annual DeaFest to keep their eyes “fixed on Jesus.” The event, which drew participants from several states, was held March 21 at St. John of God Community Services, Westville Grove.

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