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March 21, 2006

Kenya: Archdiocese Starts Pastoral Care for Deaf Christians

From: - Washington,USA - Mar 21, 2006

Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)
March 21, 2006
Posted to the web March 21, 2006

People with hearing disability in the Catholic Archdiocese of Mombasa will soon be able to actively participate in the life of the church.

They will be able to communicate effectively with their family and friends, receive preparation for the sacraments and follow the Sunday mass.

The archdiocese plans to open a pastoral office for the deaf and those who suffer other disabilities.

The office will train sign language teachers, carry out research on pastoral care for Christians with special needs and coordinate activities to fully integrate the disabled into the Christian community.

An American Maryknoll missionary specialized in sign language and care for the disabled is on a nine-month visit to the archdiocese to do the ground work.

Caroline Stanfill from Richmond Diocese, Virginia, told CISA that the first step will be to teach sign language to the deaf so they can communicate with family members and friends.

"Eventually, we hope to teach them catechism to prepare them to receive the sacraments," she said.

Stanfill said because there have not been any initiatives in the archdiocese to support people with handicaps, some disabled people within Catholic families had sought spiritual nourishment in non-Catholic churches which have sign language interpreters during services.

The missionary has started training volunteers in sign language, and hopes to promote the project in all the parishes of the archdiocese. Ideally, each parish should have a sign language interpreter, she said.

Stanfill expressed sadness that in the church, as in many other spheres of society, the needs of the handicapped were mostly neglected.

Her home Diocese of Richmond has a special office that serves the pastoral and social needs of people with disabilities and raises awareness within the diocesan community of the gifts that people with disabilities have to offer to the larger church.

"In the past ten to fifteen years, tremendous progress has been made to reach out to people with disabilities," she said of Richmond. There are designated parishes where special liturgies are conducted for the hearing impaired. A similar effort was needed in Mombasa, she said.

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