Launching of the Catholic Ministry for the Deaf in KL Archdiocese

The Catholic Ministry for the Deaf (CMfD), under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, was launched at the Church of Jesus Caritas on Oct 29, the International Day for the Deaf.

Nov 10, 2017

By Joseph Loh and Veronica
The Catholic Ministry for the Deaf (CMfD), under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, was launched at the Church of Jesus Caritas on Oct 29, the International Day for the Deaf.

Approximately 40 deaf persons from around the Klang Valley joined the celebration, which began with Mass presided over by Archbishop Julian Leow, with Fr Michael Chua interpreting the Mass in Sign Language for the Deaf.

Archbishop Leow began his homily with silence. This was done on purpose, to give the hearing members of the congregation a small taste of the experience of a deaf person’s world. A world of silence.

He touched on how those who can hear are privileged because they are able to hear the word of God. But what about the deaf? Have we considered their world? Do we expect them to find ways to hear or do the hearing have the responsibility to transmit the word of God to them in a language they understand? How will the deaf know the Word of God if we have no one to sign to interpret for them? He, therefore, challenged the hearing and those who are able bodied to use all the faculties that God has given them for others who may be lacking or special in different ways. We have a responsibility to bring the word of God in whatever way we can.

At the Mass, nine Sign Language interpreters were commissioned to serve in CMfD. The Archbishop highlighted the need for more interpreters to serve and bring the word of God to the deaf.

After Mass, members of the congregation and students from Jesus Caritas Sunday school joined activities to introduce the work of the CMfD and to create awareness of Deaf Culture. In his speech, Archbishop Leow encouraged all those who know sign language to come forward to offer their services. If anyone is thinking of learning a new language, perhaps the language of the Deaf can be considered; to enable them to be the link or channel for the deaf to hear the Word of God.

Fr Chua, the Ecclesiastical Assistant of CMfD, briefly explained his role to all present. He hopes to spend more time with the deaf community, to know and understand their needs more. He also encouraged all present who may have an interest to learn to come forward.

Joseph Loh, the hearing representative of CMfD, spoke about the Church Interpreting Programme. He shared his personal journey and what would be required in the training of a Church interpreter. The most basic requirement is to know Basic Sign Language. Those who already possess some skills should work to develop their vocabulary. After which, they are required to have direct interaction with the Deaf Community for a minimum of six months to a year to allow the potential interpreter to have a firsthand experience of Deaf culture and to allow them to improve their signing. During this time, they would be taught how to sign songs and scripted text prepared for Mass. This would help prepare them to be Assistant Interpreters. Finally, after having gone through these preliminary trainings and exposure, they would be enrolled in the Church Interpreting Programme and, upon graduation, they would be commissioned as Church Interpreters. Fr Chua then presented the certificates to four interpreters who had successfully completed the CIP programme.

Jennifer Ng, who is the pro-tem CMfD coordinator, thanked all present for making the time to be there. She shared that this ministry is not only just for the deaf but it’s also a platform to empower the hearing to help reach out to more deaf. It is hoped that with the launching of CMfD, there would be greater awareness created among the hearing to understand the needs of the Deaf.

The IDD celebration then continued, with mimed skits performed jointly by the deaf, and students learning sign language. Thereafter, the audience was engaged to provide an interpretation for what they had seen. The catechism children displayed keen interest and exhibited great prowess in unravelling the message of the skits.

The audience was then taught how to sign the alphabets, which led to the spelling of their names.

To create awareness so that the children will not fear approaching the deaf just because they don’t know sign language, basic gestures were shown to describe objects and emotions. Some even mentioned that they can communicate with the deaf by writing or using text messaging.

Before the programme ended, the audience was taught two signed songs: Happy Birthday and the Bahasa hymn, Hari Ini. The event concluded with fellowship.

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