For the Deaf and hard of hearing, new recognition

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Kate Slosar, co-director of the Office of Ministry With the Deaf in the Diocese of Camden, will give the keynote address at the first-ever Catholic DeaFest on March 19 at the Catholic Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

 

Individuals who minister to Deaf and hard of hearing Catholics in the State of New Jersey describe this as an exciting time.

The new enthusiasm can be traced to 2008, when some Catholic Deaf people from New Jersey went to Rome to attend “The Deaf Person in the Life of the Church: An International Catholic Deaf Conference.”

They attended Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the various sign languages of the world and had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. In November 2009 there was a Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers XXIV International Conference: Ephphatha! The Deaf Person in the Life of the Church.”

During this conference, Pope Benedict XVI stressed that Deaf persons of the church deserve attention: “You are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel message, but are, by full right, also agents, by virtue of your baptism.”

Recommendations from these two conferences have challenged pastoral workers with the Deaf to achieve the full integration of Deaf Catholics into the life of the church, said Sister of St. Joseph Bernadette McMenamin, director of Ministry With the Deaf and Persons With Disabilities, Diocese of Camden.

For the past three years, the pastoral workers in the Archdiocese of Newark and the Dioceses of Camden, Metuchen, Paterson and Trenton who minister with the Deaf have been working on ways to include Deaf members more fully into the faith life of the church. They have sponsored combined retreats and pooled resources to better meet the spiritual and social needs of the Deaf.

“Often Deaf and hard of hearing persons are looking for a place to belong and are searching for spiritual events celebrated in American Sign Language (ASL),” said Sister Bernadette. “The Deaf who use ASL desire to be understood and want to freely express themselves and their faith in their own language without barriers. It is extremely difficult for a Deaf person to find a priest who knows ASL; therefore, their spiritual needs are often compromised.”

In September 2010 the idea of the Catholic DeaFest was born as a way to reach out to Deaf and hard of hearing members of the Catholic Church in New Jersey.

The Catholic DeaFest will give Deaf and hard of hearing people an opportunity to meet, socialize and pray with Deaf Catholics from all over the state. It will give the pastoral workers who minister with the Deaf a venue to listen to the needs of the Deaf as well as share ministry opportunities for the Deaf that are already happening in various dioceses.

There will be four presentations concerning “Faith and Life” and all will be presented in ASL. The presentations will be voice interpreted for hearing members of the church, and Assistive Listening Devices (ALD) will be provided for the hard of hearing.

The keynote speaker will be Kate Slosar, co-director of the Office of Ministry With the Deaf in the Diocese of Camden.

Slosar, who is Deaf, recently located to South Jersey from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Mich., where she ministered with the Deaf community at St. John’s Deaf Center.

Most of the spiritual and social events for the Deaf in the Diocese of Camden take place at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Holy Saviour, Westmont.

Slosar’s topic will be “Faith in Action.” She will share personal experiences from a Deaf perspective, understanding the barriers that face Deaf people each day. She will demonstrate how these everyday experiences are connected to stories from the Bible and can be applied to daily lives of prayer.

Presentations will include:

• Father Joseph Goode from the Diocese of Paterson will present “Catholic Symbols.”

• Deacon Tom Smith from the Archdiocese of Newark will share the story of forgiveness as found in the “Prodigal Son.”

• Julie Doerrmann, a Deaf counselor who works with Deaf people in recovery programs in the State of New Jersey, will present the topic, “Road to Recovery.”

There will be exhibits related to Deaf Catholics in the church, such as the International Catholic Deaf Association and companies that serve the needs of the Deaf.

The first-ever Catholic DeaFest will be held on March 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Catholic Center, Rutgers University, 84 Somerset St., New Brunswick, N.J.

The day will begin with a prayer service in ASL and end with Mass celebrated in ASL.

“Bring your faith and we will satisfy your physical and spiritual hunger. It is our goal that all will leave in peace to love and serve the Lord and each other,” said Slosar.

For more information on DeaFest, please contact Kate Slosar at kate.slosar@camdendiocese.org