Sister Arlene Trant was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and grew up in Chicago until she was 12, when she and her family moved to San Jose, California. After finishing her degree in Speech Correction and Audiology and another year to obtain her teaching credential, Sister Arlene joined the Peace Corps. and served in the West Indies for two years.
While she enjoyed living and working in another culture, Sister Arlene knew something was missing in her life. The call to religious life that she felt in her heart continued to grow, and so in 1972 Sister Arlene joined the Maryknoll Sisters. In 1973 Sister Arlene was assigned to Hong Kong. Her first year was spent in studying Cantonese. After that, Sister Arlene joined the staff of the Hong Kong School of the Deaf and taught high school seniors. In 1977 she returned to Maryknoll, N.Y. for her reflection year, the year of preparation before making Final Vows.
In 1980 in the presence of her parents and sisters as well as her Maryknoll Sisters, Sister Arlene made her Final Vows in Hong Kong .
In 1983 Sister Arlene and two other Maryknoll Sisters went to Macau where they responded to the bishop’s request for religious to serve the new immigrants from China. While working at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, Sister Arlene began working with the deaf. As this ministry grew Sister Arlene was asked by the Macau Social Service Department to start a Center for the Disabled. The main work of the Center was a sheltered workshop where people with a variety of disabilities were able to find employment. The Center also provided adult education, audiological services as well as social and recreational activities. On weekends, Sister Arlene was involved in pastoral work with the deaf. The weekly signed Masses soon grew into Bible study and an RCIA program for the deaf.
From 1991 to 1994, Sister Arlene returned to the States where she traveled in the Western U.S. sharing her mission experiences in schools and churches. Sister Arlene returned to Macau and continued her pastoral and educational ministry with the deaf. Sister Arlene said of her ministry with the deaf: “The joy and love and friendship they extend to me and to each other show clearly that hands (sign language) speak louder than words.”
In 1998 Sister Arlene was assigned to Guatemala where she lived in a very poor barrio just outside of Guatemala City called Mezquital. As Sister Arlene made friends she learned of the sufferings of her neighbors who had come to the city from many upcountry provinces where they had experienced deep personal tragedies and witnessed genocide in the civil war in that country. During the week Sister Arlene worked in a woman’s cooperative. On Sundays Sister Arlene went to the Cathedral in Guatemala City where together with the deaf Catholics she founded the Guatemala Deaf Catholic Community, which not only interprets Sunday Masses, but has weekly Bible study in sign language and also outreach to other deaf people in the rural areas of Guatemala. This dynamic group continues to flourish even after Sister Arlene left Guatemala in 2004.
Sister Arlene was appointed to the Maryknoll Sisters Vocation Ministry Team based on the West Coast. In this ministry Sister Arlene enjoyed the many opportunities to share her experiences in mission as well as accompany young women searching out their own paths.
Sister Arlene returned to Macau, China in 2009, and is once again deeply involved in the ministry. Sister Arlene loves facilitating sign language in Masses with deaf Catholics; teaching sign to hearing priests and parishioners who wish to collaborate in this ministry, as well as others in Macau interested in learning sign. Quite a few deaf come to the Sunday Masses who are not baptized. The deaf participate in other ways in the liturgies; four are able to be readers. Something new will be inaugurated with the first Saturday night Mass just for the deaf. Outreach to the young who are deaf is planned with a barbeque. Sister Arlene also teaches oral English, 1st – 4th grades, once a week to more than 300 little ones in a local Catholic grade school.