Sydney’s deaf and hearing community marked the 40th anniversary of the Ephpheta Centre with Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on 8 September.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP presided at the Mass to celebrate the founding of the centre by the Sisters of Charity in 1979.
“Today we honour and thank the Catholic deaf community for their example to us whose ears are fine but whose hearts make them hard at hearing God’s Word,” the archbishop said in his homily. “The Ephpheta Centre has for four decades been giving a hearing to the deaf, a voice to the mute, reaching out to all the hearing impaired with the loving touch of Christ.
“Thank you for your example of Godly service and healing love.”
Today the centre located in Punchbowl in Sydney’s west is a special ministry of the Archdiocese of Sydney, supported by the dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay.
Its name means ‘be open’ and is taken from the story of Christ’s healing of the deaf man in Chapter 7 of Mark’s Gospel. It is the only provider of services to Catholic deaf and hard of hearing people in NSW, which include visitation and support, sacramental and pastoral care and advocacy.
It also provides a chaplaincy team for the deaf across the three dioceses, including religious and social services for the signing-deaf, oral-deaf and hard of hearing, and those who have lost hearing through age and industrial deafness.
Present at the Mass were Ephpheta chaplain Fr Michael Lanzon, its director David Parker, business manager Liz McDowell and other friends of Ephpheta along with hundreds of the people it serves.
Ms McDowell said that as a “proudly Catholic organisation” Ephpheta is inclusive and open to support all of the deaf and hard of hearing and their families. She said people travel from as far as the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains to access the centre.
“It is a place of welcome and a safe ‘deaf space’,” she said.
“Most of our staff and volunteers are people who are profoundly deaf and all staff are competent Auslan users.”
Ms McDowell said that sacramental and pastoral support remains a focus as there are many deaf people in community who suffer from isolation and loneliness.
“Our chaplain Fr Michael Lanzon has also worked hard to improve his competency in Auslan which enables him to effectively minister to our community,” she said. “Many describe Ephpheta as their second home and this is something that is very dear to us.”