Is there a need for ASL to interpret the liturgy of the Mass?

I have not become aware of deaf individuals at any of our Masses. No one signs at any of our Masses either. SOOOO …do they not come to Mass, because no one signs, or does no one sign because there is no need? There are many hard-of-hearing people, but, I would guess most of them do not know ASL, so having someone sign wouldn’t help them anyway. OR - would they be more inclined to learn ASL if they knew somebody would sign during Mass?

I didn’t know where to ask this.

I’ve never seen anyone signing for the whole congregation at parishes near me. I have seen individual people signing during Mass, and assumed one was interpreting for the other. I’m curious about this too.

I’ve seen sign language interpreters at very large Masses. Like at big cathedrals. Or when at a convention/conference where Mass is held in an arena type setting. And I’ve often seen people signing along with songs (but not for the benefit of the deaf.)

But I don’t think I’ve seen anyone signing for the benefit of a group of deaf people at a parish Mass.

My daughter is Deaf. Where we used to live, in Lexington, there were 2 parishes in our diocese that had ASL interpreters at one weekend Mass. I imagine the presence of an interpreter is based on need.

However, it’s my experience thus far that Deaf people feel quite left out…I have felt this way on behalf of my daughter, and she is not even 3 years old.

We now live near Cincinnati and G goes to a Deaf school, that is also Catholic. They have a chapel with daily Mass and one Mass on Sundays. It’s awesome. Completely in ASL (with interpreters for those who are not Deaf;)). I love that now my G has access to the faith :slight_smile:

We have two people who do ASL during the Masses. There are several people who attend who are hearing-impaired.

I really like watching the ASL for the hymns/songs.

This is my concern when I notice the fact that there’s no sign at the liturgies I’m attending.

I guess my question is: how do you come to really learn the need in an area for an interpreter? The deaf probably won’t come to Mass if they already know there is no one to sign. If they don’t go, you don’t realize the need. Seems like a vicious circle. EWTN has close captioning. It would be easy now for someone who is deaf to stay home and ‘settle’ for that, especially if they don’t want to call attention to themselves, but certainly not the same as physically attending Mass.

I am glad for the opportunities your daughter has.

Traditionally deaf communities have clustered near the state School for the Deaf and there have been parishes in those areas with ministries for the deaf.

Hard-of-hearing people normally have no reason to learn sign language (ASL in the US) because they live in the hearing world with all their family and friends being hearing. The appropriate adaptation for them in a church would probably be an FM system if they wear hearing aids that are compatible with an FM system.

It’s usually best to ask any disabled person what would be helpful accommodations for them. There are times when people with disabilities aren’t aware of accommodations that might be helpful for them. It depends on many factors like their age and where they have gotten services for their disabilities. Family doctors rarely know much about living with disabilities. A Department of Rehabilitation counselor on the other hand may have a good idea of appropriate accommodations.

We are lucky in the SF Bay Area that we’ve had Catholic ministry to the deaf since the late 1800’s including deaf priests here for a number of years. Our SF parish has two deaf priests currently, and the East Bay parish is served by a bi-lingual hearing priest. I would say that the deaf are used to commuting some distance to get to a deaf parish. If one is available within an hour or so of home then that would usually be preferable to a Mass with an interpreter but no other deaf people there. Other ethnic groups do the same, for example the Polish community here travels to a particular parish. We in Eastern Catholic Churches also often travel some distance every week to get to our parishes. :slight_smile:

Perhaps sign interpreters should be more available.

I agree, this would be a good thing.

All faithful with handicaps and limitations are also part of the Church.

While I think the idea of interpreters for deaf people is great, couldn’t they just follow along in their missal and watch for the cues? I’m not deaf, nor do I know anyone who is so I’m just making an assumption.

This would exclude them from the Mass–the homily in particular.

There is a Catholic Church in Tokyo that has a sign language interpreter at a designated Mass every Sunday. They had reserved seating in particular pews for the Deaf so that they would be able to see the interpreter from where they were seated.

My guess is that interpreters are provided based on need. In Tokyo, the interpreter was a volunteer parishoner.



I just googled for catholic deaf parish and the first thing that came up was my local archdioceses webpage which tells where the interpreted Masses are held.
Sort of if you were Spanish or philipino or korean or chinese, you would know how to find a parish that offered Mass in your language.

Deaf people can seek out an interpreted Mass in the same way that a hearing English speaker could seek out an English Mass in a foreign country. They aren’t “dumb” they are deaf.

there are several parishes in this diocese who have a volunteer ASL interpreter and the deaf tend to participate in those parishes and Masses. These volunteers happen to be parents of deaf children, or teachers in the public schools where deaf children are bussed for their education, and most of the volunteers are also catechists for deaf children and adults in CCD, sacramental prep and RCIA. We tried to offer this at our parish but the layout of our tiny church made it very difficult, and they now go to another parish with a new large church that is well designed for the purpose.

I have seen at cathedrals or shrines with very large gatherings the practice of the ASL interpreter standing next to the priest but it is more common for the interpeter to stand close enough to see and hear the priest and where he can be seen by the group of deaf parishioners who sit together.

many more parishes offer technology (TTY?) that enables the hard of hearing to participate more fully in Mass.

If you or someone you know needs this service call the diocesan office of liturgy, or catechetics and see if they can refer you to parishes near you.

In this parish I have some interpreters who volunteer to come and interpret for someone with this need. we had a regular Mass for this but the individual stopped coming, in preference for the neighboring parish that also offers the CCD and other services for them. Even though our volunteers willingly interpret for CCD as well most families prefer the program designed specifically for them. We publicize this service from time to time, but have not had requests recently.

they could, just as you could follow along on the “English” side when you attend Spanish Mass, but anyone who does this regularly will admit they miss a lot this way.

So is the entire mass signed, Eucharistic Prayer and all?

yes especially when those receiving this service are also being catechized for sacraments.

Until quite recently my daughter acted as a BSL interpreter in my parish. She was asked to learn BSL when a parish family where both mother and father were deaf had their oldest child preparing for 1st communion. She learnt enough at that time to be able to sign the parts of the Mass and some of the hymns and then qualified as a BSL interpreter. She has signed during pilgrimages and at our Cathedral and is now advanced enough to be able to interpret homilies. Although initially the idea was that she would be able to sign for the first communion mass, there were a couple of deaf people who heard that the mass would be signed and asked her if she would sign occasionally for a normal Sunday Mass. She eventually signed one Mass every Sunday for several years, and taught some of the altar servers to sign parts of the Mass. We did have one gentlemen go through RCIA and she also attended RCIA to interpret for him and signed Sunday Mass for him. Often there were other deaf people in the congregation but they did not always want to be identified although they would often come and thank her after Mass, if the Mass was signed and people became aware that a Mass was being signed regularly then they would attend.

Unfortuntely she had to stop signing during her recent pregnancy as the incence was making her ill and she has now moved away from the Parish.

I’m hard of hearing with significant loss in one ear, and almost total deafness in the other. I have had some experience of deaf people.

Hard of hearing people would not need sign language generally, but might benefit from other methods - loops; headphones; maybe bluetooth with the new generation hearing aids (limited range however); power point presentations of songs, responses and creeds and so on.

The profoundly deaf could benefit from the power point presentations at least.

Sign language is a difficult skill to learn, and like any other language needs constant practice and repitition to maintain it. So interpreters are not easy to find.

But if it becomes obvious that there is a regular deaf attendee in the congregation, then one hopes that somebody else in the church family might make it their ministry to learn sign language, in order to make that person feel welcome and understand what is going on.

Deafness is a socially excluding disability, and to ignore the communication needs of a deaf person strikes right at the very thing they find most difficult - exclusion. That’s why they tend to stick together - the only people they can really relate to are those who speak their own language.

Generally speaking if you want to have a ministry with disabled people you need to either be as disabled as they are, or completely whole so that you can act as a conduit between them and the general community. On that basis, hard of hearing people are not best suited to ministering to profoundly deaf people, since we’re neither one nor the other.

I had a lot more trouble finding this information for my diocese. Apparently there’s not even a web page for the Diocesan Coordinator for the Deaf. Fortunately, there is such a coordinator, and I found an old newsletter with the contact information (V/TTY/email). That’s great, but it could definitely be better.

Often in the Archdiocesan/diocesan Directories ministry for the deaf is listed in the section on Mass in other languages, and/or the section for “ethnic parishes/ministries”.

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