Deaf Catholics Prepare for New Missal: Web Training Resources Offer Starting Point for Implementing Mass Changes in American Sign Language

By Ryan, Zoe | National Catholic Reporter, October 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Deaf Catholics Prepare for New Missal: Web Training Resources Offer Starting Point for Implementing Mass Changes in American Sign Language


Ryan, Zoe, National Catholic Reporter


In the U.S., English isn't the only language into which the new Roman Missal will be translated.

Across the country, deaf and hard-of-hearing Catholic communities and their interpreters are preparing for the November changes thanks to free online resources.

The National Catholic Office for the Deaf served as the launching pad for a series of video clips as preparation and as a reference for the new translation of the Roman Missal into American Sign Language (ASL). The videos, posted in April, are available on YouTube and the Washington archdiocese's Web site at www.adw.org/service/interpreter_training_newromanmissal.asp. The archdiocese created the videos.

Other deaf apostolates have created training as well, such as Boston, which has its own online training videos at www.deafcatholic.org. In addition to online resources, it provides in-person workshops for Boston Catholics, said Fr. Jeremy St. Martin, director of the office of the deaf apostolate in Boston.

The idea for the video clips on the Washington archdiocese Web site came from Mary O'Meara, executive director for the Department of Special Needs Ministries for the archdiocese. O'Meara grew up going to signed Mass with her father, who was deaf. She also has degrees in linguistics and interpreting from Gallaudet University, a Washington school designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Often, she said, "those marginalized communities, like the deaf Catholic community or other communities of persons with disabilities, are kind of left in the dust in these big changes that we experience in the life of our church."

This online resource, she said, prepares them in advance and helps them feel comfortable and familiar with the changes.

Every year, the National Catholic Office for the Deaf has a conference. This past conference, pastoral workers and clergy who work with the deaf Catholic community met, and, O'Meara said, they "were all saying the same thing: We have nothing to prepare us for the changes of the Roman Missal."

A nonprofit membership organization, the National Catholic Office for the Deaf reaches 5.7 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Catholics, according to its Web site.

Ideas involving DVDs and hosting nationwide workshops were tossed around, but O'Meara suggested they make a Web-based resource to reach everyone. The group decided to make a series of video clips that would be available on the Web, she said.

"The materials that were proposed were to be a draft so that folks across the country could then add the nuances of the signs that are appropriate for their community," O'Meara said. "Just like anywhere else there are small differences in how to sign things from the East Coast to the West Coast. So we wanted to just have a base model that would be available on the Web, free of charge, so that anyone can go and use that as a starting point."

After communicating for a few weeks among one another and deaf Catholics, the pastoral workers, clergy and interpreters flew into Washington in March for only three days, spending two of those days gathering the plans together and the third day filming. The Washington archdiocese technology team brought the video clips together and then polished and posted them, O'Meara said.

A Web-based resource can reach every community out there, she said, from big cities such as Chicago with large areas of deaf ministry all the way to tiny communities in Idaho where the next deaf Catholic community may not be for hundreds of miles. For those areas without Internet connection, the Washington archdiocese has been burning the videos and audio and sending them to those who request them, she said.

The free one-stop site acts as a base so people "could talk about the choices, appropriate ASL signs, the use of space, directionality in signs. ... Oftentimes it's confusing who is speaking because a lot of sign language is very iconic, and it depends a lot on the directionalitv. …

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