100 years on, signs are strong for deaf ministry

Signs are good

A century after it was founded, members of the NSW Catholic deaf community reflect on the foundation of a ministry to the deaf and hearing impaired, and how to maintain their identity in a changing culture, writes Sharyn McCowen.

- The Catholic Weekly

In the Gospel of St Mark, Jesus healed a deaf man with the command ‘Ephpheta’, meaning ‘be open’. It is a phrase long since adopted by the Catholic deaf community and the name of the Sydney Archdiocesan deaf ministry, just part of the story of this tenacious community. 

Deaf Catholics Danni Wright, brothers Brian and Dennis Johnston, Robert Beath, Mary Profilio, and Danny Blakeney, teamed up earlier this year to plan the centenary celebrations. 

The Catholic Deaf Association (CDA) was formed in Sydney in 1914 with the support of deaf man Arthur Power and the Dominican Sisters from the Rosary Convent Deaf School in the Newcastle suburb of Waratah. 

'It began as a social gathering at one deaf couple’s home, all the deaf Catholic people would get together at the home of Michael and Mary Carmody in the Abbotsford area,' Brian said. 

The association was born of necessity. Young Catholic men and women were graduating from their Catholic boarding schools and returning to parishes, and sometimes families, unable to minister to their needs. 'There was nothing,' he said. 'There was nothing. And that is why the CDA came about. 

'It was first established because there was nowhere for these young deaf kids to go to Mass, and their parents were upset about it.'

The home gathering began to include religious education from the Dominican Sisters and a priest. In 1922 the Christian Brothers opened St Gabriel’s Deaf School for Boys in Castle Hill. The order drafted the constitution to formalise the Catholic deaf community into an association. 

Photo: Danny Blakeney, Mary Profilio, Robert Beath, Danni Wright, and Brian Johnston will celebrate 100 years of the NSW Catholic deaf community

FULL STORY Deaf ministry: a sign of the times

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