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A Life Unlike Our Own

Solitary person standing on a hillside near a park bench
Assisting the Deaf

By Lani Tamatawale

The world faced devastation during the time of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of people have died, and many others have suffered and continue to suffer. Their lives were ruined or destroyed when they lost their work and could not support their families. Many young people were also trying to cope with the pandemic, family problems, online classes, etc. Some did not see any good coming out of the pandemic in their lives while others were grateful for good things that happened in their lives in the pandemic.

Man standing in front of neon signsIn November 2022 I met a young man named Pau who joined in our “Come and See” session. He shared with me that the pandemic brought something good in his life. Before the pandemic he was not always active in church activities, nor did he attend Mass often. He usually only stayed home and focused on school; he did not socialize with his friends. Since the pandemic, he has had more time to reflect and search about himself. This brought him closer to the Church community as well as changing him a lot. He began to join the youth group and get involved in youth activities, He also became a lector at Mass. He made new friends in the youth group and associated himself with Columban missionaries whom he met in his local chapel. He is very grateful, because, if not for the pandemic, he would not become active in his Church community. I shared with him that God really loves him and wants him to come closer to God.

On St. Columban’s Day we celebrated Mass at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish for the Feast of our patron St. Columban. Most parishioners attended the Mass, and I was interpreting for the two deaf people who attended the Mass. Pau was also at the Mass and became interested in learning sign language in order to serve the deaf. I asked him why he was interested in learning sign language. He said that one day when he was in a jeepney two deaf persons came in and paid their fare. They wanted to tell the driver where they were going but they could not understand each other because of the language barrier. Pau wanted to help them. However, he himself, like the jeepney driver, does not know sign language and so he felt sorry for the deaf persons. It was because of this experience that he wanted to learn sign language.

Since Our Mother of the Perpetual Help was elevated to become a parish, The Deaf Ministry was introduced as one of the parish ministries. I began to visit chapels and attend Parish Pastoral Council meetings to introduce the Deaf Ministry in the hope that for some parishioners might be interested in learning sign language. Some women in one of the chapels, together with some of the youth, including Pau, were interested in learning. Every Sunday afternoon I would have sign language classes for the youth who were interested in learning. Pau was very committed and eager to learn. He never missed a class. I have always hoped and prayed that the youth who were learning sign language would have the heart to serve the deaf. We always have fun in the class, especially when we have a quiz to see what the youth remember from the lessons we studied. The youth are naturally competitive and are very interested in learning.

In February 2023, the Deaf Ministry was introduced to the parishioners of the parish. The deaf parishioners were invited to attend the 8 am Mass every Sunday during which there would be interpreters. As an inclusive church we are welcoming the deaf and interpreters to Mass every Sunday. I am proud that even one of the youth is a member of the Deaf ministry and interprets during Mass on Sundays. Pau has come a long way. I am so happy for him and with his enthusiasm and commitment. I hope and pray that he continues to serve the deaf. The more he communicates and engages with the deaf community the more sign language he will learn. The deaf parishioners are so happy and willing to help him learn more signs. It’s a humbling experience to teach sign language and to share our gifts with others who are eager to learn and serve the people of God.

Columban lay missionary Lani Tamatawale lives and works in the Philippines.