Inclusive Faith

This semester I am taking an American Sign Language (ASL) class here at BU in order to more familiarize myself with that form of communication for my teaching years to come. That being said, one of the assignments for this class is to attend at least two deaf events in the Boston area. As a result, last Sunday I took some time to travel out to Newton Centre to experience a ASL Catholic mass. I initially went in order to fill the course requirement and to become more comfortable in a signing first environment. And while this was accomplished, I was surprised to find myself asking the question, “Why is there not a signing priest?”

This is not meant to be so much of a critique as much as an observation. The priest himself apologized many times for not knowing ASL but each time he did I wondered why he has not learned. Or why haven’t the dioses sent over a deaf/ signing priest to lead this mass more affectively? Surely there is a priest in Boston who knows ASL. And if there is not, then maybe that in of its self has to be addressed. Which leads me to a topic of recent discussion; inculturation. In short, inculturation takes on the idea that every congregation has one culture, and this is the culture that the church should address. However, the debate that comes out of this is that in most every congregation, there is no one culture to address. More often than not, a congregation is made up of countless backgrounds and traditions that may have different means of prayer and faith formation.

So to tie this back to my visit: the dioses may have sent one, English speaking priest to this congregation after seeing that most of the population is hearing. However, how can this system be improved so that the other families who are deaf, or who have cultural differences do not have barriers that make it difficult for them to more fully benefit from a weekly mass?

I also should also clarify that this is not subjected strictly to Catholicism so much as Catholicism is the only example that I have in experiencing this divide. But maybe this is something to be addressed in all religions. How can we make our faiths more inclusive to all? Not just in morality which has been a massive battle in the 21st century. But in accessibility which seems to be overshadowed by its equally important cousin.

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