Culturally Deaf Catholics in the U.S. have defined themselves not by their disability but by their shared history, language, and traditions. This article narrates the history of Deaf Catholics from the founding of the International Catholic Deaf Association (ICDA) in 1949 to the ordination of the first culturally Deaf priest in North America in 1977. Deaf Catholics have long struggled for inclusion in parish life. Beginning in the 1950s, the work of hearing priests and pastoral ministers resulted in improved availability of religious education and sacraments in sign language. In the 1960s and 1970s the institution of vernacular Masses after Vatican II, the acceptance of American Sign Language (ASL) as a language, and the increase of preaching in ASL provided for an expansion of ministry by the Deaf, for the Deaf. Consequently, Deaf Catholics themselves laid the groundwork for the first Deaf religious vocations. The growth of a core group of Deaf Catholic leaders, including clergy and laity, spurred the creation of several national organizations whoich sought to coordinate gatherings, including retreats in ASL, to further include this marginalized group in the life of the Church.

Author(s): Marlana Portolano

Journal: U.S. Catholic Historian

Date: 2015

Volume: 33

Issue: 3

Pages: 99-124

DOI: 10.1353/cht.2015.0024


Disabilities: Deaf-Blindness, Deaf/Hearing Impairments

Categories: All Categories, Clergy/Theology, Individuals with disabilities