BUKIT PADANG – A Sign Language Mass was celebrated at the Church of Mary Immaculate here on 10 Sept 2017.
It was organised by the Sacred Heart Ministry to Deaf People (SHMDP) of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish Kota Kinabalu.
Franciscan Friar Rowland Yeo of Singapore, a deaf priest, presided at the Mass using sign language.
Around 60 hearing-impaired and 30 hearing parishioners turned up for the Mass. Among them was Javier, who was new to the sign language.
“It’s such a new interactive way to experience Mass,” he said.
A deaf student from SMK Datuk Peter Mojuntin said, “Friar Rowland used a lot of gestures, facial expressions, and body language apart from hand signs to convey his messages, which is the way deaf people communicate,” she said.
The deaf members in the ministry hoped that they would be able to experience more integration with hearing parishioners in all pastoral and non-pastoral activities.
SHDMP hoped that with integration, more hearing parishioners will be encouraged and inspired to get to know the deaf community, their culture and their special needs, especially religious needs.
In conjunction with the International Deaf Day, the Deaf Ministry will also be organising a Thanksgiving Mass in October.
This day is celebrated worldwide on the initiative of the UN on the last Sunday of September, in honour of the establishment in 1951 of the International Federation of the deaf.
The beginning of the formation and development of societies of deaf people in many countries has been made possible thanks to the meetings and associations of graduates of schools for the deaf.
Charles-Michel de l’Epee (1712-1789) founded the first public school for the hearing-impaired in France. He devoted his life to developing the world’s first sign alphabet for the deaf. Epee is also credited with creating a systematic method of teaching the hearing-impaired. His manual alphabet, which he called French Sign Language, was adapted into American Sign Language a few decades after his death.
On the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of the great Frenchman in 1912, many deaf people from different countries were invited, and it became the first international meeting of the communities that initiated the contact.
One of the upcoming events will be the 2nd Asian Catholic Deaf Conference (ADCC) to be held in Tagaytay City Philippines on 27 Nov-2 Dec 2018 under Father Min Seo Park of South Korea, the first deaf priest in Asia.
Fr Park was one of the three deaf delegates appointed to the Steering Committee to look into the spiritual needs of the Asian Deaf Community at the 6th South East Asian Conference for Pastoral Workers for the Deaf held in Kota Kinabalu in October 2010. The other two were Melina Sylvia Ann of Kuala Lumpur and Patrick Anthony of Singapore.
In March 2014, Pope Francis held an audience with the Deaf and the Blind. He encouraged them to be witnesses of Christ and asked them to build a culture of encounter. Pope Francis is also urging more and more that we make an inclusive Church, welcoming the people who are on the margins: and the deaf people truly are on the margins. (Source: CNA/Asia’s first conference for deaf Catholics*)
As to the Asian Conference, Father Peter Teerapong Kanpigul, chaplain of the Deaf Catholic Association in Thailand explained during the 1st ADCC “The aim is to promote better understanding and network with dioceses, interpreters, and sign languages, which vary from country to country, so as to foster and strengthen the apostolate of a participatory Asian Church to bolster the new evangelisation”. (Source: CNA*) – Charlton Gomes