by ROWENA OREJANA
PALMERSTON NORTH — The official New Zealand Sign Language translation of the Missal may be available in DVD form by the end of the year.
Palmerston North deaf community chaplain David Loving- Molloy said deaf community
chaplains are making the DVD. “This will be used in the future to train priests to
introduce New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) to parts of the Mass,” he said.
The Deaf Project team overseeing the translation includes Mr Loving-Molloy, Jackie
Overall, Mary Johnson, Judith Mason and Shona McGhie, as well as interpreter Felicity
Crowe. Fr Bruce Bolland has advised from time to time. They have been working on this project
for the past four years.
Mr Loving-Molloy said many Catholic deaf people do not have strong links to the Church and
are not regular attenders because of the lack of access to NZSL interpreters.
“The Church does not have a strategy to encourage Catholic parishioners to become qualified NZSL interpreters.” Interpreted Masses are arranged by deaf community chaplains and can occur in different places, he said.
Mr Loving-Molloy said the problem is that they are a small socio-linguistic cultural minority, but not recognised as such.
“The main obstacle to further growth for deaf Catholics is that, in general, hearing people (and many in the Church) do not see the deaf community as a cultural group with a real language. Most people see deaf people as disabled,” he said.
Mr Loving-Molloy said there is a need to go beyond just providing interpreters. “While being able to provide interpreted Masses is important, ideally we really want to see priests being able to celebrate the Mass in NZSL in the same way as Masses in Te Reo are available for
Maori. Achieving that will take time,” he said.
In Palmerston North diocese, there are occasional interpreted Masses in Wanganui, Levin and
Hastings. However, there is no Catholic deaf chaplaincy in the South Island and there are limited services in Hamilton, he said.
In Auckland, there are interpreted Masses at Christ the King Church in Owairaka twice a year. Interpreted Masses are held at Pompallier Diocesan Centre once a month.
Owairaka parishioner Mary Johnson said she had been going to the Interpreted Masses for
about 10 years. She loves attending Masses with hearing people but wishes for more interpreters.
“Also, I wish the priests would not talk too fast so that the interpreters can follow. Sometimes the interpreters can only follow halfway through, so we miss a lot,” she said.
Auckland deaf chaplain Judith Mason expressed concern that the deaf youth might be
missing out, too. “The Church should become more aware and more deaf friendly,” she said.
Ms Mason said the Catholic deaf community in Auckland hold socials and Bible studies to enrich
their faith, but “it’s not easy”.
She added deafness is seen as a disability and equated with helplessness. “They need to learn
to trust us, that we can do things on our own,” she said.
She said the lack of trust has sometimes hampered their ability to hold gatherings, but she said she will keep working on it. “I will keep lobbying.”
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn expressed suppport for the deaf community. “I have great
concern for the deaf community because it is an isolated culture. If they would like to have Mass every Sunday, I would be happy to talk to them about what options there might be,” he said.