‘. . .And the Deaf shall hear’

Tom Cuskey

Our Lady of Sorrows offers assistance through Deaf Ministry

Above: Interpreter Lynette Shear signs as a lector reads from Scripture during Our Lady of Sorrows’ Sunday 8:30AM Mass.

Photos and story by Deacon Gary DiLallo, contributing writer 

A special ministry requires special people. Apalachin resident, wife, mother, grandmother, educational interpreter and freelance deaf interpreter Lynette Shear is one of them. She recently answered the call to serve as a local deaf interpreter.

Shear thought she couldn’t possibly take on more responsibility. Then came a phone call request from Michele Murphy of the Diocese of Syracuse Deaf ministry asking her to interpret the Mass at our Lady of Sorrows Church in Vestal. Lynette’s immediate thought was going to be “no … But Michele didn’t give up. She believed in me.”

Already extremely busy at BOCES as an educational interpreter and also interpreting with a theater group, Lynette said, “That’s why I said no at first.” But that inner voice kept urging her to provide equal access to the Deaf community. Five months later she is engrossed with this mission.

Even hymns can be translated through sign language.

Lynette says it takes a lot of time to prepare for Sunday Mass, “Often three or more hours a week.” Thankfully, she receives the music in advance from the choir director, giving her time to prepare.

The homilies and the rapid-fire words are often challenging, but she ensures that the points are interpreted and spoken through signing. “I have to listen, comprehend and translate in sign language.”

In speaking about her spiritual clients, Lynette said, “They don’t need help, they just need access to the word of God. I believe that God was calling me to this special ministry, and I am most grateful to have said yes.”

Tracy, who is one of the clients, said, “For years, my husband John would say after we returned from the church, ‘I thought the sermon was good.’ To that, I would reply, ‘I didn’t hear the sermon, as usual.

“But now through the Diocese of Syracuse Deaf Ministry that works to break down communication barriers between Deaf and hearing individuals ensuring full inclusion in the local Catholic community, it is now so spiritually uplifting for me.

“Sunday Mass is now a gift to rest, understand and I let the words of scripture and music soak in.”

Tracey, who lost her hearing at the age four, was discouraged by so much focus on the word of God and spoken words in Christian tradition and she could not understand what was said. “In addition to the hymns, readings and testimonies, it is now an absolute joy to be at mass.”

Many people with hearing loss often disengage from their Christian faith. The Catholic Church recognizes some saints who were Deaf.

  • Saint Teresa de Cartagena, a nun who lived in 15th-century Spain and lost her hearing in childhood, has written that her deafness was a great blessing because it led her toward God.
  • Saint Teresa of Avila similarly found the ringing in her ears associated with hearing loss, “But the tranquility and love in my soul are quite unaffected.”

Rather than seeing deafness as a sign of God’s disfavor, the faith of Deaf and hard-of-hearing Christians brings new understandings about God to the world.
Michele Murphy said “my interpreters interpret every week for Mass, religion education, sacramental events, holidays and holy days of obligation.

“They are compassionate, loyal and wonderful people not only to the Deaf community but to the churches they work with. Lynette is one of many interpreters that is a vessel for the Word of God.

“It is a spiritual experience not only for the Deaf community but for the interpreter and hearing parishioners as well. This experience brings a new level of beauty to God’s message. We are blessed when a parish such as Our Lady of Sorrows opens their doors to give equal access to all. “

Father Richard Prior, Pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, welcomes anyone with any degree of hearing loss to come to the 8:30 AM Mass. It is a great opportunity for them to joyfully participate at Holy Mass.

If anyone needs interpreting services, please contact Michele Murphy, Diocese of Syracuse Deaf Ministry; email [email protected] or call/text (315)766-6514.

By Tom Cuskey , thecatholicsun.com , Local ,

2024-07-09 07:42:38 , The Catholic Sun , ‘. . .And the Deaf shall hear’

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