Ministry to the Deaf
Today it’s rare if ever that there is any mention in Jesuit records of Jesuits involved in ministry to the deaf persons. Over one hundred years ago Woodstock Letters the most comprehensive annals of Jesuits and their lives and ministry throughout the USA and Canada (until the formation of the first Canadian Jesuit Province here in Canada), there are repeated references to Jesuit involvement in this specialized service.
The first Canadian Jesuit to my knowledge to work with the Deaf was Father Michael Costin, SJ who was born in Halifax N.S. in 1838. In that era Canadian Jesuits would have been part of the New York Mission and often spent their lives of ministry in the United States.
Saint Joseph’s School for the Deaf was founded in 1869 in the Fordham section of the Bronx, New York. The original founders were of the religious order, The Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. This small school building soon outgrew the demand for enrollment and a second branch opened in Brooklyn in 1874. The need for the education of deaf boys opened yet another branch in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx known as Oakland Cottage in 1876.
Father Costin would have worked with the Deaf children both in Fordham section of the Bronx and with the boys in Oakland Cottage in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx.
“Not long after his return to Fordham he undertook the care of the deaf children in the institutions at Fordham and Throgg’s Neck, and soon became very proficient in their sign language. He also formed a congregation of adults among the deaf in New York City. This work was emphatically a labor of love for Fr. Costin; to it he gave himself unreservedly; and in it he displayed more energy than could have been supposed possible in one suffering so constantly.” [from the obituary of M. Costin, SJ in 1884 –Woodstock Letters