Signs of the times: church mass for hearing-impaired
They will not be ‘mute spectators’ anymore. In a pioneering move towards creating an inclusive service for all sections of the faithful, the Syro Malabar Church has embarked on a mission to celebrate the mass in sign language, perhaps a first of its kind programme by any of the Christian denominations in the country.
KOCHI: They will not be ‘mute spectators’ anymore. In a pioneering move towards creating an inclusive service for all sections of the faithful, the Syro Malabar Church has embarked on a mission to celebrate the mass in sign language, perhaps a first of its kind programme by any of the Christian denominations in the country.The St George’s Church in Edappally celebrated the first mass with translation by a sign language expert on August 5. The mass in sign language is an initiative of the Syro Malabar Pro-life Apostolate chaired by Bishop Mar Mathew Arakkal, Bishop Mar Jose Pulikkal, and Mar Remijios Inchananiyil as members.
“When the Pro-life Apostolate suggested the idea of including the hearing-impaired, Church head Cardinal Mar George Alencherry was all for it,” Pro-Life Apostolate secretary Sabu Jose told Express. “He celebrated the first mass translated into sign language by Sr Smitha and Sr Abhaya.” Currently, there is no platform in the church for the hearing and speech impaired, Sabu said.“They don’t have the opportunity to participate in any of the prayers. Now plans are also afoot to launch a pre-marital course for this marginalised section. Though, in the initial stage, the mass started with ‘translation’, priests who have learned sign language will soon celebrate the mass in sign language. A national fellowship and mass for the hearing and speech impaired will be held at Mount St Thomas, the headquarters of the church in Kakkanad on September 11,’’ he said.
The Syro Malabar synod currently in progress at Mount St Thomas, is expected to bring out an official policy for the hearing and speech impaired. Having begun on August 21, the synod is set to conclude on September 1. ‘’There was a festive mood after the mass in which the hearing and speech impaired participated,’’ said Sr Abhaya, who translated the mass into sign language. She teaches hearing and speech impaired as principal in-charge of the St Clare Badhira Vidyalayam, Manickamangalam.
“The hearing impaired who took part in the mass included persons who are married with families,” said Sr Abhaya. “It was the first time they were participating in the Holy Mass since childhood. They were very emotional after the mass and even I was very moved to see their happiness. I wish we had started this much earlier. I now get numerous messages asking when the next mass is scheduled.
They want at least one mass a month.’’