This year’s Center for the Deaf “Lunch with Santa.”
This year’s Center for the Deaf “Lunch with Santa.”

Breaking Down Barriers

By Kerry McGuire

Correspondent Kerry McGuire showcased St. Dominic Center for the Deaf in an article on breaking down barriers for the deaf, published last fall in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s Texas Catholic Herald. Our own Fr. Len Broniak, chaplain and program director at the Center, has been a driving force behind the ministry’s initiatives for more than two decades. He remains committed to empowering the Deaf community to fully live their Catholic faith, particularly in training and empowering more lay leadership.

“We have recently been blessed with the ordination of a deaf deacon, Bruce Flagg,” Fr. Len said. “We also are hosting this year’s National Catholic Office for the Deaf Pastoral Week, where we hope to encourage more people to become active leaders in the faith.”

Approximately 1,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people benefit annually from the center’s services, which include a Mass celebrated in American Sign Language every Sunday, hospital and home visitations, and preparation classes for Baptism and marriage. Interpreters also are available for church events at other parishes.

“Because we serve a culturally diverse population, we are always trying to find new leadership that reflects that reality. We offer a quarterly Mass in Spanish to encourage Hispanic families to be involved, and we are grooming our young deaf members to be catechists and future leaders,” Fr. Len said. “To be able to pray and worship in your own language is truly a blessing that is not found in many dioceses.”

Father Len said St. Dominic Center gives deaf and hard of hearing Catholics and their families the opportunity to practice and to participate in their faith through the “language of their hearts.”

“They can receive the Eucharist, go to confession, get married, and have their children baptized and be confirmed, all in a language that they can understand and fully participate,” said Father Len. “Deaf adults also share their experiences and frustrations of growing up in a hearing world with the hearing parents, so they can be more sensitive to the needs of their children.”

In addition to Mass, Sacraments and faith formation classes taught by deaf catechists, St. Dominic Center offers American Sign Language (ASL) classes to teach parents and those interested in the language and culture of the deaf community.

Read the entire article by Kerry McGuire, Herald Correspondent here.