Center for the Deaf offers a window of mercy
March 6, 2016
HOUSTON — In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, the 14 stained glass windows inside the Warren Chapel at St. Dominic Center represent the deaf ministry’s culture, where the deaf and hard of hearing community looks outward to make the works of mercy come alive in their daily lives.
According to Father Len Broniak, C.Ss.R, chaplain and program director at St. Dominic Center for the Deaf, seven windows depict images of the Corporal Works of Mercy, and seven represent the Spiritual Works. He believes they accurately portray how the deaf and hard of hearing persons at the center are putting their faith into merciful action to help others in their homes, parish, schools and communities.
St. Dominic Center is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) in the Archdiocese. The ministry’s mission is to provide all deaf and hard of hearing persons with complete accessibility to the Catholic Church and ways to improve their faith life.
“St. Dominic is that place where they can come together to celebrate their faith in their native language, American Sign Language,” said Father Broniak. “Providing a faith celebration as their own language feeds their souls and helps them grow closer to God and neighbors.”
Father Broniak said St. Dominic serves approximately 1,000 children and adults each month, depending on need. As the Catholic voice among the greater Houston Deaf Community, the ministry also strives to secure equal rights in access to services throughout the city and country for all deaf and hard of hearing persons.
In addition to celebrating Mass in their own language, Father Broniak believes St. Dominic’s education programs help the deaf and hard of hearing persons to understand their faith more fully, thereby allowing them to live it more fully.
“Children are beginning their sacramental lives with an understanding of how precious Jesus is to them in Communion, and that God forgives them in Reconciliation, and that the Holy Spirit strengthens them in Confirmation,” he said. “Couples are prepared for marriage with an understanding of how sacred and special this Sacrament is for them and their future lives. Parents are instructed how Baptism is the beginning of their family’s faith walk with God, all of these taking place in a language that is as natural as breathing to them.”
Improved technology has greatly impacted how the ministry communicates and provides education to the deaf and hard of hearing persons.
“We are now using DVDs and computers for most all our classes,” Father Broniak said. “And our office is equipped with a video phone that allows people to contact the office directly.”
Father Broniak believes St. Dominic benefits greatly from the DSF, especially since the ministry offers services that are not readily duplicated at the parish level. This requires a central location to adequately meet the needs in the Archdiocese.
Programs, processes and services offered at St. Dominic include catechism for deaf children offered in sign language, a fully functioning Liturgy team where everything is done in sign language with a voice interpreter for hearing members, and a governing council to help plan activities for the community. In addition to celebrating the Sacraments, interpreters for home parish events, such as funerals, weddings, Baptisms, First Communions and Confirmations, etc. are available.
“DSF provides the space and funds we need to have a location where our cultural Catholic identity can be expressed and celebrated” said Father Broniak. “Without DSF, there would be no Christian-Catholic education for the next generation of deaf Catholics.”