On the Experience of Coming Last in Class.

Source: ed2go.com

I am by personal disposition a middle of the pack student.  It is rare for me to be first in class, and, until yesterday, never last.

But there I was in an introductory class of American Sign Language hopelessly out of my depth and receiving hand written missives from my deaf instructress telling me that no one will know what I was trying to communicate.

Some time ago I was approached by the deaf community to celebrate Sunday Mass with them regularly. They promised they would translate into American Sign Language my prayers and what I said in my homily. All I had to do, in other words, was to show up.

But I thought that from a pastoral point of view I should try to learn one of their languages.  In my case that meant I had to learn to sign.

What a task I took on! I am no longer nimble with my fingers and hands, nor can I remember what shape my fingers should take to say something, not verbally as I have done all my life until now, but visually.

Then there is the subculture of the deaf which is quite distinct. You are, for example, encouraged to tap on the shoulder of someone else and grunt at him or her to get their attention.

So all of this has represented an apostolic opportunity for me but presents many challenges. I hope to face these with humility and good grace in the hope that in my mid-seventies I can still be of some religious service to others especially a community like the deaf who are not well off financially and who have been marginalized by the majority of us who do not even notice that they are all around us.

John Perry, Sj, is doing pastoral ministry at St. Ignatius Parish, Winnipeg and is researching and writing at St. Paul's College..

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:41h, 25 March Reply

    Thank you John! Courage!

  • Roger Yaworski, SJ
    Posted at 10:53h, 25 March Reply

    Good for you and for the deaf community.
    Hang in there.

  • Leanna Obirek
    Posted at 12:08h, 27 March Reply

    You’re amazing.

  • Peter Monty
    Posted at 10:45h, 28 March Reply

    Thank you John. I admire your courage and perseverance. I hope you continue with this ministry!

  • Emoke Szathmary
    Posted at 13:20h, 29 March Reply

    What matters to people is that you are with them, and most of all that, trying to speak their language. Take heart, have faith in your hands, and you will do your best. As ever, you inspire us to do what we can for others.

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