Relative who is hearing impaired


I have a relative who is deaf but was raised catholic. She is part of a deaf Assemblies of God church for several years now. She told me she never got Mass, even though sometimes her Catholic parish had interpretations and she had classes to understand more.

Should I be trying to reach out to her to bring her home? She likes her new church and friends, but I wonder what I can be doing to help her along. Part of the problem is a small community of deaf and hard of hearing Catholics and no Masses that are interpreted anymore, at least that I know of. I am sure that since she has been exposed to anti-Catholic stuff for all these years, she would be every hesitant to return at all! :hmmm:

Does the desire to return to the Church have to come from her? :shrug: If she isn’t wanting to return to the church, should I press? Moreover, is it a mortal sin for her, since I’m pretty positive she never formally left the church with a letter. Should I be trying to dialog with her, even though she has animosity toward the church? (A few times she has asked me weird questions that I answered honestly - and with loving charity - and it totally surprised her that I had an intelligent answer. She seems to believe what her pastor and his wife tell her, especially, I suppose, these untruths that she gullibly believes about the catholic church).

I would like to give her books to read. But her comprehension level is low, and she might regard this as a way for her to share stuff with me. Oh, well, it might open a door, right??

I am trying to be charitable every time I see her, which isn’t very often, but I feel at a loss, because I don’t know any liturgical signs. :blush: The most I do is pray for her conversion and her family’s, at each Consecration, and occasional decades of the Rosary.

Also, I understand that Masses aren’t completely translated because of the nuances of American sign language and spoken English.

Please advise.

Thanks and God bless.

P.S. I am always bolstered by remembering a story of an elderly deaf man who loved Mass and even though he couldn’t “hear” what was actually being said, he still always sat in the front pew. When asked why, he simply said something like, “I know Jesus is here.”:heart:


Hello MarieCecelia,

I’m the mom of a deaf child and the best way to teach her about the faith has been a question for us, also.

Is there a Catholic Deaf Office in your diocese? If so, they may be able to help you find resources that will explain more about Church teachings. Even if she isn’t ready to come home, she may be interested in seeing what she “missed.”

Regarding the translation of the Mass, you’re right that ASL will not translate word-for-word from English but signed Masses are beautiful and are conceptually accurate. A Signed English interpretation will be close to standard English but the choice depends on what your relative prefers & also what is available in your area.



question is her church a deaf church or has a section availible for deaf at a church??

A church that is deaf only is quite supportive of the community and it is a time they can relax and just talk amoung themselves without worry.


There was a Jewish service for the deaf in which the rabbi arranged to have large speakers with subwoofers blasting out sounds to represent God speaking at Sinai. The hearing impaired could feel the vibrations and walked away with a different experience of prayer.

Something to think about.


KittyChan, that’s a great point. Most people don’t realize that to be “deaf” just means a person doesn’t hear. To be “Deaf” with a capital “D” means that the person considers herself/himself part of a linguistic minority with it’s own language and culture. If MarieCecelia’s relative attends a Deaf congregation, it may be the culture of the church that fills a need.



Yes, I believe it is about the culture she is being ‘fed’ in. I didn’t put this in my original post, but I know for a fact that her social life revolves around her church membership and friendships she has created there. Everyone there seems to be in the same boat, and are simply there because* there is a group that understands them. * I have met some of these friends, and it is clear to me that they adore Jesus and truly believe themselves to be in his church and doing his work. The very hard part is knowing she has misconceptions that I could clear her up, but she doesn’t ask.:confused:

Most unfortunately, the experience I perceive she had whilst Catholic was that everyone who was deaf or hearing impaired was older than her (most were middle aged or parents of young kids, while she was herself a child). She didn’t have anyone to relate to, I understand. I will try her diocese and see if any Masses still exist that are signed. Still, the question remains, do I engage with her when she isn’t even indicating she’s interested in returning. :hmmm:


There are Catholic Deaf Associations, a good google search for your state or dioceses could show what they provide


Thank you Sarah

and to Marie et el

I went to sign language classes, I am half deaf, the one ear is fine the other never worked. The class was at a pentacostal church to help the congreation learn to speak to the deaf members.

part of what we did was go to a deaf church and we sang songs and tried to show them what we know. which wasnt much :slight_smile: but they loved the effort.

They have a definite feeling of separation and feel comfortable when they can kick back and yap to their hearts content. Without the hearing wondering what they are doing. (did you know its bad form to watch sign language especially if you know it)

But a suggestion, instead of worring about getting her to go to your church, try going to hers a few times. Get to know her, discuss things of faith with her, discuss God, Jesus etc. leave the church membership out of it and I bet you will grow closer.

She would problably love to know that not only a “hearing” person considered what she said but a Catholic too. She can learn your not all bad :wink: and you can learn the same.

If God wants her to change churches, He will let her know, dont worry :slight_smile: for now support is more important.


I’m profoundly deaf, but I’m not capital D deaf. In my city there’s one Mass time that’s interpreted, and I’ve heard that some travel an hour or something like that just to go to Mass, and to chat with other Deaf people afterwards. (As an aside, where can one learn Catholic ASL for masses?)

It is difficult for deafs and Deafs to follow along sometimes, so anything interpreted or otherwise made available to us is a huge plus, because we hate being left out of the loop. At least, I do. The mass I attend isn’t interpreted, so thank goodness I learned how to hear! It’s very frustrating living in an auditory culture, that we attend many Deaf events in order to maintain our sanity :smiley: I’m sure everybody’d hate it if you couldn’t talk to anybody for a long period of time.

If there is no Catholic Deaf outreach, and there is not many people like her, then it will be difficult to convince her, since she’s not totally bilingual (i.e. reads English). So, for now, just leave religion out, and just outreach as a friend. If you feel comfortable enough, you can ask Father if you could guest-interpret a Mass, or hire an interpreter, and invite her to visit your service. After that, just keep a open heart and pray that God will deliver her home! :slight_smile:


What a wonderful and caring person you are. May God bless you with the right choices you make.


I’m curious what Diocese you are in. I’m in Austin (which is a pretty big Deaf Hub), but as far as I can tell, there is not an official “Deaf church”. Although, there is one in South Austin by the Texas School for the Deaf where they have services in ASL, being so close to the Deaf community.

My husband and I interpret at a parish in North Austin. My husband was a certified interpreter for many years, but has not been certified for some time since entering a different work force. I learned ASL to communicate with the kids he was teaching when we 1st started dating.

We decided that even though we had been out of signing for some time (6 years) that we would just go for it and make that part of our stewarship. It was hard at first. I won’t lie. Especially through things like the Creed (since it’s so fast in spoken language) and other times of the Mass.

But the people we interpret for are very patient with me, as well as helpful. I will occationally ask them what sign they would like me to use for a certain word after I explain the concept to them. They are grateful to have someone willing to try and we are grateful to use a skill that would otherwise be lost.

My point to this novel is that perhaps you know someone who knows ASL that might be willing to use their gifts to help out. Do you know ASL to where you could intepret for her? Friends of hers? Friends of her family? Anyone in her family? I’m just trying help you think about people that maybe hadn’t been thought of yet.


As another Hearing Impaired person - let me give you some input.

As everyone has said, contact your local Catholic Deaf Ministries. Find out which parish has the interpreters and the Deaf attend.

I strongly suggest you first start attending said parish to meet the Deaf people and visit with them. Get to know them. Learn their names. Learn their sign names. And then bring your Deaf relative to Mass and introduce her to your new friends.

Keep in mind, its very doubtful that she will want to change churches because of one visit. But it will at least plant some seeds for her return home.

A bit of topic here, but bear with me. I really wish more priests would take an active interest in Deaf Ministries and learn at least some American Sign Language. At my parish, when one priest was assigned there and he knew how to sign the Eucharistic Prayer and a few other things, signed Mass always had a lot Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and interpreters there. If you think it’s neat to see an interpreter at Mass - just imagine the priest signing during Mass.

At my parish we also have a Deaf altar server and some Deaf readers during Mass. The Deaf Community is strongly encouraged to become active in the Church. At the present,we are awaiting a new bishop to be installed - but our former bishop always had ASL interpreters for major events and asked for our Deaf readers to do readings.

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