Opening a Window to a Silent World

Deaf Catholics connect with our ministry in China.

It can seem like a prison, a world filled with faces where lips move without sound. Now, multiply that by a lifetime and you start to sense the world of the hearing-impaired. At a church in China, we’re helping deaf people really become part of the community as Catholics.

It’s all happening at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Macau, where the assistant pastor and some parishioners volunteered to learn sign language with Maryknoll Sister Arlene Trant. It took them four weeks. Their devotion is lasting far longer.

“From that time on, there have been about a dozen people with normal hearing who sit with our deaf group and sign the Mass prayers together with us,” Sister Arlene said.

Every week at Mass, she joins about 20 deaf people who use sign language to say the prayers. Lectors who are deaf “read” the Scripture readings with special hand gestures, which make up a language that more and more in the parish can understand

arlenetrant1Students at St. Teresa”s School in Macau, China, practice their English with Sr. Arlene, who is a teacher there.

“It continually amazes me how warmly our deaf Catholic group has been welcomed into the parish,” said Sister Arlene, who began a Sunday school class for deaf people this year. In addition, the church holds a monthly Mass for the deaf on Saturday night. Sister Arlene is hoping to attract more young Catholics who are deaf.

A “special honor” took place on May 1, when deaf people helped celebrate the parish’s feast day for St. Joseph the Worker. At the Mass, the pastor invited a small group of deaf Catholics to stand at the altar and pray the Lord’s Prayer in sign language.

Macau Bishop José Lai Hung-Seng and more than 10 priests celebrated the anniversary Mass at the church. Only around five percent of the population here are Catholic.

This year’s feast came on the day the parish was founded 11 years ago in a working-class area of Macau, an island territory in the South China Sea. Among those attending was Sister Anastasia Lindawati, a Maryknoll missioner serving her first assignment in nearby Hong Kong.

“I was moved when the four deaf persons prayed the Our Father in sign language in front of the altar,” said Sister Anastasia.