The Catholic ‘voice’ for the deaf, hard of hearing

April 11, 2017

The St. Dominic Center for the Deaf was created to provide all deaf and hard of hearing persons complete accessibility to the Catholic Church. The office also acts as the “Catholic Voice” within the larger hard of hearing/deaf community of the Metro-Houston area. Herald file photo.

HOUSTON — For more than 40 years, St. Dominic Center for the Deaf has been the “voice” of Catholics who are deaf and hard of hearing in the Archdiocese as well as the larger Metro-Houston area.

St. Dominic’s mission is to ensure the deaf and hard of hearing receive all services offered at a regular parish and have complete accessibility to the Catholic Church. This is part of the Church’s interest in creating an inclusive and welcoming community so that all may be one in Christ.

“Our ministry provides an access for the deaf and hard of hearing that would not be possible at a regular parish,” said Father Len Broniak, C.Ss.R., chaplain and program director. “By remaining ‘culturally deaf’ at St. Dominic’s, the individual can have a feeling of self-worth and independence through participation. Family members also are able to see the deaf individual as his or her own person, not as a problem to be solved.”
Father Broniak said St. Dominic’s gives every deaf and hard of hearing person the opportunity to fully practice their faith. He said it can happen at the center or the individual’s home parish. The ministry has a wide scope, but a singular purpose — to help improve their faith life.

St. Dominic’s is one of 60 ministries in the Archdiocese supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF). The programs, processes, and services provided by St. Dominic’s are made possible by those who generously support the fund annually. Currently, St. Dominic’s provides sign language at every Sunday Mass at 11:15 a.m. in the Warren Chapel, as well as a voice interpreter for the hearing family members. A fully functioning Liturgy team is in place so deaf and hard of hearing members may serve as lectors, ushers and Eucharistic ministers.

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.

For adults, marriage and baptismal preparation, classes are held for deaf couples. To assist parishes in the Archdiocese, interpreters are provided for Baptisms, weddings, funerals and church events. Also provided are hospital and home visitations to those who are sick and shut in.

For children in the Archdiocese, St. Dominic’s offers programs with deaf teachers for deaf children, including classes for confession, First Communion and Confirmation held at 9:30 a.m. two Sunday’s a month. The classes are conducted in sign language with a heavy emphasis on visual presentations, and are small in size so the teacher can ensure the children fully understand the lesson. After class, the children and their families attend Mass with the entire community, allowing the children to see successful, fully participating deaf adults that may serve as role models.

In addition to religious programs, processes and services, St. Dominic’s offers events and activities for the deaf and hard of hearing through participation in a social club. The focus is to provide opportunities for fellowship and community with deaf and hard of hearing persons.

This includes annual parties for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter celebrations, weekly social after Mass with bagels, donuts and coffee, monthly bingo tournaments and potluck dinners and bi-monthly club meetings, allowing the deaf and hard of hearing members to have input and take ownership of activities and events offered.