A new website for Catholic deaf ministry will encourage increased spiritual awareness at a time of limited opportunities for the hearing impaired, according to members of the Sydney Catholic deaf community.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference launched the new program, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Catholic Ministry, on 22 October with a liturgy signed in Auslan, captioned and streamed online.
The website “will encourage and challenge all of us to celebrate the beauty and strength of the Body of Christ by promoting participation and inclusion of the deaf and hard of hearing Catholic community”, said project leader Patricia Mowbray.
“It will be a call to create opportunities for participation and inclusion where everyone is valued, gifted and acknowledged.”
The launch coincided with National Week of Deaf People from 18-24 October.
David Parker, community manager for the Ephpheta Centre, and interpreter Nicole Clark led the Prayers of the Faithful in Auslan, while all staff attended the launch.
David said the website will be an invaluable resource for Australia’s 2500 deaf Catholics.
“This website will provide opportunities for increased spiritual awareness, learning and growth in our Catholic community – at the present time such opportunities are very limited in Australia,” he said.
“The website will be an important way to raise awareness of the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people in our Catholic Church.
“We are hopeful that with this greater awareness will come increased opportunities for access and for deaf and hard of hearing people to fully participate in the life of the Church with the wider community.”
He praised the consultation process that preceded the launch of the new site.
“Trish has consulted widely with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Catholic ministries and communities throughout Australia in developing the website, always being focused on accessibility and cultural appropriateness for the deaf and hard of hearing.”
The site features information on deaf culture, stories from deaf Catholics a guide to Auslan, tips on working with Auslan interpreters, and parish and community events.
Ephpheta Centre business manager Liz McDowell said the site’s launch was “a significant step on the way of inclusion for all people in our Church” following the 2009 Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers’ conference which focused on the integration of deaf people in the life of the Church.
Bishop Terry Brady, chair of the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, called on Catholics to “confidently strive to become inclusive communities that warmly welcome all people and their families; communities where the presence of Jesus Christ is recognised in everyone and where we can all fully celebrate in the life of our Church”.