Pastoral ministry with deaf community 'a privileged one'

By Sr Majella O’Sullivan rsj

Every morning I get up to something new! I am the Pastoral Associate/Interpreter with the South Australian Catholic Deaf Community. My pastoral/interpreting skills come into play when I meet deaf people at appointments, which I, as a hearing person attend.

Sr Majella O’Sullivan RSJ

Sr Majella O’Sullivan RSJ

Within Church Life there are times when I interpret at Eucharist, Funerals, Marriages and Baptisms. My interpretation provides the Deaf Community with an understanding of what is happening. Sometimes, my presence at a family funeral enables the deaf person to ‘hear’ (using sign language) something about their family member for the first time.  To see reactions on the person’s face when they ‘hear’ this information, which a hearing sibling knew, makes my ministry important. My work as an interpreter enables a deaf person to have access to whatever a hearing person experiences.

My ministry is not only to the Catholic Deaf Community, as I have the opportunity to be Ecumenical. Being a Josephite in this Ministry allows me to bring God’s Kingdom alive in a ‘hidden’, ‘silent’ world.

My pastoral/interpreting skills lead me into many areas of life that require me to be compassionate.  In one situation I had to give news to a man and his family that chemotherapy was not helping and there was nothing more that could be done for him. It was hard to walk away from a situation like this as it really tugged at my heart ‘strings’. However, as a professional interpreter I had to.

Fortunately, the man was a member of our community and I was able to journey with him and his family as he prepared to die. It is in situations such as this that I realise that my ministry is truly a privileged one.

My ministry is vast and varied and what I’ve learnt over the years is that I cannot do or be without my God.  I love the challenges that face me each day and the reward of knowing that I’ve tried my best to give a deaf person access to something that, in the past, I have taken for granted – the message that I hear.

This article was published on the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart website.