Celebrating faith in sign language at Catholic DeaFest

Celebrating faith in sign language at Catholic DeaFest

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Kate Slosar, far right, stands with Deaf Ministry pastoral workers from five New Jersey dioceses at Catholic DeaFest at St. John Neumann Conference Center in Piscataway on Saturday, March 24.

Two years ago, at the New Jersey Deaf Pastoral Workers meeting, we wanted a way to connect our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities across the State of New Jersey. We came up with the idea of hosting a Catholic DeaFest and letting people come and celebrate their faith.

On Saturday, March 24, our second annual event took place at St. John Neumann Conference Center in Piscataway. This event was sponsored by five Deaf Ministries Offices/dioceses in the State of New Jersey.

We had at least 215 participants who came from all over the state of New Jersey and some from the New York and Philadelphia areas. It was wonderful, and our communities became alive and hungry for information.

Deaf Catholics are often “alone” in their home parishes or in their community and the Catholic DeaFest is a way for us to celebrate our Catholic faith together as one community.

Often Deaf people will gather together at their social events and not realize that they made friends with other Deaf Catholics in a public place.

When a Deaf person goes to the Catholic DeaFest, they are surprised that their friends are also Catholics. It serves like a “coming home” event for our Deaf Catholic Community.

Our keynote speaker, Jean Cox, International Catholic Deaf Association US-Section President, talked about our community gifts and how we can help the church by sharing our talents and gifts.

Cox had four volunteers come up on the stage. She told one person to act like “Arm,” another person to act like “Leg,” another person to act like “Hand” and another person to act like “Feet.” Cox asked the volunteers, can you move alone?

The volunteers responded, “No, I cannot without the other part.”

Cox made the point that we cannot do things alone but with Christ we can do it in a community.

Later in the afternoon, we had two workshops presented by Clara Smit, an attorney, on “Your Rights.”

Msgr. Joe Curry from Diocese of Metuchen and I had a question-and-answer session that gave participants the opportunity to ask a priest and lay minister questions about their faith journey.

Bob Yuhas, a Deaf participant from the Diocese of Trenton, was asked to do a reading at our closing Mass in ASL. Bob has a talent that he can share with other members of the Catholic Church, Deaf or hearing.

We closed the day with a Mass.

Gathering together in Jesus’ name is what we did that day. This enabled us to discuss our faith in ASL.

Kate Slosar is co-director, Ministry With the Deaf, Diocese of Camden.

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