Bishop Noonan Celebrates Mass for Deaf Catholics

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Tears welled in her eyes as Carole Trapani watched Bishop John Noonan process into the sanctuary of St. Andrew Catholic Church on Sunday, Dec. 15. Deaf since childhood, she was touched and inspired to join her shepherd for the Diocese of Orlando’s annual Mass for the Deaf.

Mass-for-the-Deaf20131219Tears welled in her eyes as Carole Trapani watched Bishop John Noonan process into the sanctuary of St. Andrew Catholic Church on Sunday, Dec. 15. Deaf since childhood, she was touched and inspired to join her shepherd for the Diocese of Orlando’s annual Mass for the Deaf.

“It is so special that the Bishop was here,” she signed. “It means so much to the deaf community.”

Trapani was among the nearly 40 parishioners from throughout the diocese with hearing impairments to participate in the celebration of Mass with Bishop Noonan and Father Leo Hodges, pastor of St. Andrew Catholic Church. Joanne Carron, a nationally certified interpreter and parishioner of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, signed the Mass for the deaf community, who sat in the first few pews of the church, while seminarian Martin Nguyen, who is serving his pastoral year at St. John Vianney Catholic Church,  assisted Carron, signing the responsorial psalm. The Mass was part of the parish’s regularly scheduled Sunday evening service.

Trapani said she was thankful for the celebration. “Many deaf people do not go to Church anymore because there is not an interpreter,” she signed.  “They don’t want to go because they can’t understand what is going on. It is important to see, to witness and to be a part of the Mass. The connection is important.”

Deborah Shearer, director of the Diocese of Orlando Office of Advocacy and Justice, which coordinated the Mass, said the celebration was among the many ways the diocese seeks to serve the hearing impaired.

In addition to the annual Mass, Shearer said she and her staff coordinate training workshops for interpreters to ensure that their liturgical skills are consistent with our Catholic rituals and understanding of the Mass. 

She said the diocese’s deaf ministry was instituted by Bishop Thomas Grady and all subsequent bishops have fully supported the ministry in the years that followed, each adding his vision to serving the deaf community.

She said Bishop Noonan’s vision for the future includes expanding services to the deaf community to help them feel more included in the broad, diocesan Catholic community. There are plans to include educational tracks and interpreters at diocesan learning events, such as the Orlando Liturgical Conference and Faith Formation Day.

As Pope Francis tells us, the key is reaching people where they are.

“If you talk to people who are deaf, they don’t consider themselves as having a disability,” Shearer said. “They consider themselves like a community of French people. It is a different culture. They speak a different language.”

During Mass, Bishop Noonan demonstrated his newly acquired sign language skills, taught to him by parishioners prior to the celebration, by signing a few words.

 “God amazes us in how he reveals his blessings to us, especially when you experience the joy of our deaf brothers and sisters, singing in unison without words, giving praise to God with their hands,” Bishop Noonan.

Editor’s Note:

The following Diocese of Orlando parishes offer Sign Language Interpreted Masses.   Please contact the parish directly to find out Mass times.