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A deaf-friendly catechesis initiative

IMG_20171104_100651541_HDR‘Those who are born deaf all become senseless and incapable of reason,” declared Aristotle, insisting that ideas must be literally heard to be understood. 

ars magnaNearly two millennia later, the Greek philosopher’s persistent belief faced a resolute challenge from Girolamo Cardano, Renaissance scientist, mathematician, physician, and father of a hearing-impaired son.

Cardano believed deaf education would prove to be a matter of developing and deploying the right media. “We can, in fact, manifest our thoughts either with words or with gestures,” Cardano asserted, and he even created a manual alphabet as a rudimentary form of sign language.

This early advocate for the deaf was also known as a friend of St. Charles Borromeo, who admired Cardano’s intellect enough to arrange a professorship for him. Today, coincidentally on St. Charles’s feast day, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati again demonstrated its own commitment to inclusion, deaf education, and to applying the right media, which now of course includes an expanding digital universe.

Vocare ConvocationThe occasion was the third and final Vocare Fall 2017 Convocation, an informational series about the Vocare process for certifying anyone who teaches catechesis in the archdiocese. Developed by the archdiocesan Catechetical Institute with financial support from One Faith, One Hope, One Love, Vocare constitutes an innovative online formation program to replace the previous training system.

Good Shepherd Community in Montgomery served as today’s site, following previous convocations in Piqua and Kettering. Each featured appearances by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, who outlined his vision for catechetic formation and took questions from the audiences.

Among those attending today’s session were representatives from St. Rita’s School for the Deaf in Evendale, including teachers Beth O’Leary and Eileen Chambers, a St. Rita alumna. The archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Discipleship (OED) arranged for the presence of American Sign Language interpreters from Deaf Choice Inc., a company that provides such other services as captioning and advocacy. (Photo, left: Archbishop Schnurr speaks to the gathering as Deaf Choice’s Cathy Cody interprets.)

VocareVocare’s deaf-friendly effort “isn’t just for St. Rita’s benefit,” said Adam Frazier, St. Rita’s coordinator of campus ministry. “It’s for any deaf person who wants to become a catechist. The partnership we have with the Archdiocese is still in its infancy. They realize it’s important.”

In addition to offering ASL interpreters at such gatherings, the OED is working to provide captioning for Vocare video materials and adding various visual aids to workshops and other collective sessions. Since well before Vocare’s June launch, the archdiocese has worked aggressively to improve such inclusion through the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministry. (Good Shepherd Church, for example, is home to two interpreted Masses on Sundays.) The archdiocese website provides a list of resources for the deaf.

rsz_1vocThe Vocare inclusion initiative grew from an initial contact between Mr. Frazier and Catechetical Institute coordinator Rob Brock. (Photo at left shows, from left, Mr. Frazier, Deaf Choice interpreter Nick Osborn, and Mr. Brock.)

“When we got information about Vocare, I thought ‘it’s wonderful but not accessible,’” Mr. Frazier said. “So I reached out to Rob and told him ‘this is amazing but how can we create better access?’”

Mr. Brock and the OED responded enthusiastically. “They take it very seriously,” Mr. Frazier said.

That commitment will continue, Mr. Brock added. “All of our Vocare courses going forward will be accessible. I think our deaf community feels under-served. They’re not angry, but they feel that way, and we’re addressing that.”

The three Vocare Convocations collectively drew about 600 people. In addition, some 300 participated in a previous webinar series introducing the process.




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