Skip to main content

Ministry During the Pandemic

Columban Lay Missionary Lanieta Tamatawale (back row, in red) with members of the deaf community in the Philippines.

By Lanieta Tamatawale

During this pandemic, the deaf people are more isolated in their own world; they only know what is going on in the world through things visual, like watching TV news and social media, for what is happening locally and globally. There the information interpreted for them has its limits. In our ministry with the deaf, we keep in contact with them through video calls on Messenger, communicating through sign language to inform them about what is going on around them. However, it all depends on if they have internet connection. 

Columban Fr. Erl Dylan Tabaco in Peru
Fr. Dylan visiting with Angela and Alhai in Peru

We could not have an interpreted Mass as only a few people are allowed to attend Mass to observe the protocols provided by the government. Some of the Catholic deaf attend Mass, but cannot fully participate, as the Mass is not interpreted. Gatherings were also limited as we needed to have a permit even to gather with a limited number of people, making it difficult to attend to our Deaf Ministry. 

We do home visitations with precautions and give donations of food for their families. There have been many uncertainties, and we could not plan for our ministries but simply had to take things one day at a time. With these limitations, I keep them in my daily prayers in these difficult times. We continue to celebrate, deepening the gifts of faith and Christian service. It reminds me of the mystery of faith: "We remember how you loved us, through your death, and still we celebrate for you are with us here, and we believe that we will see you when you come, in your glory Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe." The pandemic has deepened my faith, reflecting on what God is telling us. What can I do for the deaf people? How can we deepen their faith in God in this difficult time?

God is so good. In February, Fr. Erl Dylan Tabaco a Columban Priest working in Peru came home for vacation. I first met Fr. Erl in 2003 when I was assigned to his parish, Holy Rosary, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. We worked together with the Youth and Deaf Ministry in the parish. Fr. Erl shared that it was through his work with the deaf ministry that inspired him to become a priest. Not many priests were interested in learning sign language to communicate and serve in the deaf ministry. This experience made Fr. Erl ask the questions, who will hear the confession for the deaf, who will preside for their wedding ceremonies? Who will help them in receiving the sacraments and educating them in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? These are the questions that Fr. Erl asked himself, and it motivated him to become a priest and to serve the deaf.

When Fr. Erl arrived, I was very happy because his heart is for the deaf, and he will give time to facilitate recollections for us in the Deaf ministry. He made himself available to facilitate the Lent and Advent recollections for the Deaf, hear confessions and celebrate the Eucharist. He was very helpful in deepening the faith of the deaf people, giving them hope to always have Jesus in their hearts. It also reminds me that the Holy Spirit inspires us to serve no matter the cost. We are never alone! The TRINITY is always with us. 

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

Publication Date: