Fewer than two dozen priests are deaf and one is helping deaf Catholics to first confession in 20 years

FATHER Min Seo Park, one of fewer than two dozen deaf priests worldwide, thinks deafness is hardly a incapacity and is working to assist others understand that as nicely.

Deaf since an sickness at age 2, the brand new chaplain of St. Francis of Assisi Deaf Catholic Church in Landover Hills, Maryland, is hoping to convey the concept that deafness be handled as a tradition.

Since returning to the United States from his native Seoul, South Korea, in late January, Father Park, 52, has taken up three ministries.

In addition to serving St. Francis of Assisi, the priest additionally is the chaplain to the Catholic neighborhood at Gallaudet University and supplies pastoral ministry to the Archdiocese of Washington’s deaf inhabitants total.

The challenges appear nicely inside the capabilities of a priest who is fluent in 4 languages: Korean Sign Language and American Sign Language, or ASL, in addition to written Korean and English.

Speaking with the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington, with signal language interpretation help of Mary O’Meara, govt director of the archdiocese’s Department of Special Needs Ministries, he advised his story of rising up deaf, his path to priesthood and his eventual return to the nation’s capital.

He arrived in the US the first time in 1994 to examine ASL and English at Gallaudet University’s English Language Institute, earlier than starting his undergraduate diploma there a yr later. Gallaudet is the one larger schooling establishment in the world the place all college students stay and study in ASL and English.

In South Korea, he grew up attending faculties for the deaf.

Not raised a Catholic, he went with schoolmates to Protestant church buildings with signing ministers at first.

Eventually, a deaf Catholic artwork instructor launched him to a Catholic parish, the place he joined a Bible examine with different deaf folks. He turned a Catholic at age 17.

With few priests in Korea who used signal language, nevertheless, he and different deaf Catholics discovered training the religion irritating.

“Deaf Catholics and I didn’t perceive clearly what the priests mentioned,” he defined.

“Some of them weren’t glad and finally transformed to Protestant church buildings.”

That opened his path to a vocation.

“When I used to be praying alone in entrance of Jesus Christ on the cross on the chapel, I requested him if he might ship a signing priest for the deaf,” Father Park mentioned.

“However, out of the blue I felt that Jesus mentioned to me, ‘Why not, you …?’ I mentioned, ‘Me?’ That is how I started to take into account the priestly vocation.”

A listening to priest who knew signal language helped him join with Dominican Father Thomas Coughlin, the first deaf priest ordained in the U.S, who pointed him to Gallaudet.

After graduating in 1999 after finding out math and philosophy, he was inspired by Father Coughlin to examine theology at St. John’s Seminary in New York.

At first he had to learn every lecture because it was being transcribed and he struggled to sustain with classwork. Soon afterward, the seminary supplied signal language interpretation, making it simpler to keep on observe. He accomplished his grasp of divinity diploma in 2004 and returned to Seoul.

There, he started theology research for the Archdiocese of Seoul and was ordained to the priesthood in 2007.

He mentioned that as he celebrated his first signed Mass after ordination, he noticed a congregation of joyful folks.

“Some deaf folks, who have been poor at Korean writing and couldn’t talk with non-signing listening to priests, had not confessed to priests for a lot of years, like 20 years,” he mentioned.

With him, “they felt assured and snug to confess to me in signal language”.

“I used to be glad that I forgave their sins by way of the sacrament of confession”.

“Deaf folks witnessed my priesthood ordination and realized that deaf folks have been youngsters of God as nicely,” he mentioned.

“They felt joyful and glad to pay attention to the phrase of God, the Gospel from me, a deaf priest.”

Over the following 14 years Father Park constructed up the Seoul deaf Catholic neighborhood, giving them their first priest who is what is referred to as culturally deaf.

Lana Portolano, creator of Be Opened!: The Catholic Church and Deaf Culture, defined in an e-mail change that Father Park is one of fewer than two dozen Catholic priests worldwide who use signal language as their main type of communication.

Nine of them are in the US.

Most deaf Catholic communities expertise Mass with an indication language interpreter or generally with a listening to priest who can have fun utilizing signal.

This can pose issues with listening to confession, as an illustration.

And an interpreter is usually at one facet of the room, which means {that a} deaf one who is following the signing can’t concurrently watch the actions of the priest on the altar.

As Father Park found when celebrating Mass in Seoul, even with a signing priest, a crowded church itself could be an impediment to deaf members.

With a congregation of 200 folks in a small area, “I had to stand on a chair so the folks in again might see me signal,” he mentioned.

That led him to lead a marketing campaign to get all the Seoul Catholic neighborhood to assist shopping for land and constructing a devoted church for the deaf inhabitants.

He visited 150 parishes, explaining the necessity. Construction was accomplished in 2019.

That was concerning the time Father Park visited the US and O’Meara started discussing with him the potential for becoming a member of the Washington Archdiocese. It took two years to receive the mandatory visa for Father Park, she mentioned.

Father Park mentioned he is wanting ahead to being in a rustic the place there are different deaf priests like himself.

“They all go on a retreat collectively in September,” he mentioned, his eyes brightening as he signed. “I’m very excited to be part of them.”

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