Tuesday, November 24, 2009

LifeTeen Mass and Evening at Divine Infant Parish, Orleans - Conference, "The Deaf Person in the Life of the Church"

On Sunday evening, the LifeTeen ministry of Divine Infant Parish, Orléans welcomed me to preside at the weekly Sunday 6:30PM Eucharist, where many of the ministries are carried out by the youth of the parish.

The Mass was preceded by a supper shared with the Core Team, including some of the parents, the seminarian from Gozo, John-Paul Cefai who is doing his internship year at DI, and the two priests of the parish, Fathers Frank Brewer and Paul Nwaeze.

After Mass, there was a skit night done in the form of a Talk Show format where I was "interviewed" by youth coordinator Chantal Léger (a variation on "Stump the Bishop" routines), with some "commercials" in favour of some Catholic "products" and musical interludes by the gentlemen of the band. The interview questions were actually submitted by the youth and supplementary questions from the "audience" were permitted.

At the end, we celebrated two young men who are celebrating birthdays this week. I enjoyed myself and think the young people did too. Herewith a few more photos of the occasion:

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Last week, there was a special international conference called "Effata! Deaf people in the life of the Church," organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

Father Peter Monty, S.J. who was for decades chaplain to the deaf in Ontario--driving thousands of kilometers every year to minister to the hearing-impaired--and now assists in this ministry part-time told me how needed this symposium is. He feels we have still a long way to go for the deaf to feel fully integrated in church life.

In Ottawa, there is signing of the Mass in the St. René Goupil chaplaincy (Goupil, a donné to the Jesuit mission and one of the North American martyr saints, was hearing-impaired) at Canadian Martyrs Church on Main Street.

Here is an interesting report on the gathering from the blog "Joan's Rome" by Joan Lewis, EWTN's Rome correspondent (the photo by CNS photographer Paul Haring shows Maura Buckley an Irish catechist and interpreter "speaking" at the meeting):

[On November 20], the Holy Father received 400 participants in the international conference Noting that the theme “effata” is “a paradigm of how the Lord works for people with hearing impairment," he referred to Mark’s Gospel where "Jesus takes a deaf man aside and … raises His eyes to heaven and says: 'effata', that is, 'be opened'. In that moment ... the man recovered his hearing, his tongue was loosened and he spoke plainly.”

Pope Benedict’s words were translated into sign language for the 89 deaf people, including one pastor, present at the conference. "Jesus' actions are full of loving attention and express profound compassion for the man before Him," he said.

"Jesus expressed real concern, took the man aside from the confusion of the crowds, and made him feel His closeness and understanding through certain highly significant gestures."

The Pope then underscored that Jesus does not only cure physical deafness. "He also indicates the existence of another form of deafness from which humanity must be healed, or rather … be saved. This is the deafness of the spirit which raises ever-higher barriers to the voice of God and of our fellow man, especially the cry for help of the poor and the suffering, and which encloses man in a profound and destructive selfishness."

The Holy Father remarked that, "unfortunately experience has shown that hearing-impaired people do not always meet with ready acceptance, committed solidarity and affectionate communion. The many associations which have come into being to defend and promote their rights are evidence of the existence of an underlying culture marked by prejudice and discrimination."

“Much more numerous,” he pointed out, “are the initiatives prompted by institutions and associations, both ecclesial and civil, that are inspired by authentic and generous solidarity and have improved the living conditions of many deaf people."

He recalled how "the first schools for the education and religious formation of these our brothers and sisters came into being in Europe in the 1700s. Since then, charitable initiatives have been multiplying within the Church, ... with the aim of offering the deaf, not only formation, but integral assistance for their complete self-realization."

Benedict XVI decried “the serious situation in which deaf people still live in developing countries, because of both a lack of appropriate policies and legislation, and because of difficulty of access to basic healthcare. Deafness, indeed, is often the consequence of easily-curable diseases."

In this context, he appealed "to political and civil authorities, as well as to international organizations, to offer the support necessary to promote … due respect for the dignity and rights of deaf people, favoring ... their full social integration."

St. René Goupil evangelizing a Native child

"Dear hearing-impaired brothers and sisters," concluded the Pope, "you are not only recipients of the announcement of the Gospel but, by virtue of your Baptism, also its announcers. Live every day, then, as witnesses of the Lord in the environments in which you live, making Christ and His Gospel known."

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