Mariannhill Monastery

1882 Abbot Francis Pfanner – South Africa

Deaf people face huge challenges.

Posted by Mariannhill Monastery May - 29 - 2012 Comments Off on Deaf people face huge challenges.

It is an undeniable truth that the Catholic Church has done a lot in improving the lives of people with disabilities especially in areas of education, social and spiritual ministries.

One of the plausible church initiatives was the establishment of the Deaf Ministry in Marriannhill which has done a tremendous job in making the deaf community feel part of the church.

Although a lot has been done, deaf people still feel that the Deaf Ministry needs to be further capacitated to ensure that it fully caters for their needs.

They argue that the ministry has not been able to fully utilise the technology available such as the hearing aids and other technologies for the benefit of the deaf community. The lack of these gadgets sees deaf people relegated to the periphery and ostracized from society and the church.

Their plight seems to be linked to the fact that the majority of deaf people don’t have access to education (sign language) that would make them progress in life and feel part of society too. As a result of lack of sign language education, effective communication becomes a big challenge.

Fr. John Turner of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill (CMM), who ministers a congregation of the deaf in Mariannhill, knows only too well about the stressful experiences and obstacles faced by the deaf. In that, it is always painful and frustrating to encounter discrimination and being labelled disabled person because of loss of hearing.

The Mariannhill Catholic Deaf Mission, where Fr. Turner ministers is the first of its kind in the whole of Southern Africa and the only hope that deaf people have. According to Fr. Turner, the success of this ministry would not have been possible without the assistance of the CMM, who for the past three decades have cared for the spiritual needs of the deaf people.

Fr. Turner, who is also severely deaf, has been working with the deaf people for over three decades now. He said when he began his ministry in 1978, there were hardly many deaf people around. However, as he travels across the country as part of his ministry and even to the neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, it is evident that the number of deaf community is growing rapidly.

“When I began my ministry there was only one deaf person coming to church in the Durban area. But today there are many deaf people across the country who go without receiving the word of God and thus feeling excluded from the church,” he said.

This is an indication that there is tremendous spiritual need for the deaf in South Africa as many of them die without having heard the gospel of Jesus Christ during their life time.

“More than 99% of these people have no access to the sermons preached in church,” he said.

The challenge for the future, according to Fr Turner, is for the church to be able to train deaf Catholics and Christians in sign language which they mutually understand.

“There is an urgent need for the establishment of a college for the deaf, to train them and help them to be placed as missionaries in their communities,” he said.

On a positive note, Fr. John Turner and his team are currently compiling a DVD with sign language translations aimed to aiding the deaf to understand church catechism, Stations of the Cross and special bible translations for the deaf to read.

“The main objective with the DVD is to get delivered to different deaf centres and homes so that they follow since they are cut off from the radio too,” he conclude.

Post by Mauricio Langa

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