Catholic priest to lead retreat for Deaf and hard-of-hearing in the Diocese of Salt Lake City

Friday, Jun. 13, 2014
Catholic priest to lead retreat for Deaf and hard-of-hearing in the Diocese of Salt Lake City + Enlarge
About once a year, a Deaf priest visits the Diocese of Salt Lake City to minister to the Deaf community. Shown celebrating a Mass last year for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing is Father Shawn Carey, director of the Deaf Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Boston. IC file photo

SALT LAKE CITY — The Catholic Deaf community in the Diocese of Salt Lake City will host a retreat using the American Sign Language at Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic Church June 21-22. The retreat master will be Father Michael Depcik, an Oblate of Saint Francis de Sales and pastor at Saint John’s Deaf Center in the Archdiocese of Detroit. 
Fr. Depcik will spend Saturday with the Deaf community focusing on prayer, the sacraments and most importantly, the Mass, he said. “I will also talk about reading the Bible and serving other people,” he said through a video relay service. “We will also enjoy God’s love as well as enjoy having trust.” 
Because many Deaf people do not have frequent opportunities to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Fr. Depcik also will hear confessions during the retreat. 
“There are only about 12 priests who are deaf in the world,” he said. “I’m talking about people who grew up deaf using the American Sign Language, while associating with the Deaf community, not those people who were hearing and became deaf later.” 
By contrast, Fr. Depcik pointed out, many priests who are hearing do not associate with Deaf people or know sign language. 
“A lot of Catholic people who are Deaf have left the Church and joined other religions such as the Mormon, the Jehovah Witnesses and Baptist religions because they have a lot of good pastoral work that focuses on Deaf people,” Fr. Depcik said. “Unfortunately, the Catholic Church focused on the Deaf in the past, but there being a lot of crises in the Catholic Church in general, the Church is focusing in other areas now and left the Deaf pretty much on their own and some have left as a result.” 
It is Fr. Depcik’s hope that with this retreat “the people who are Deaf will not give up their faith,” he said. “People who are Deaf cannot communicate in church with a lot of people and often we get left on the sidelines; we often feel invisible because we can’t voice for ourselves. Blind people or people with wheelchairs are noticed easily, but 96 percent of Deaf people don’t go to church, no matter what religion. They get frustrated.” 
A solution to this problem is having a greater number of hearing people know the American Sign Language so they can listen to the issues of people who are Deaf and also have a good liaison with the Church, Fr. Depcik said. “I don’t mean someone to take care of the Deaf people when they are sick, but rather to communicate with them about issues like money problems or not having enough Deaf priests.” 
An ideal solution would be to have a priest who knows American Sign Language, Fr. Depcik said. “The Deaf would then feel they had access to the sacraments and a priest who could communicate with them,” he said.“That way they could have someone skilled doing pastoral work who could understand their needs, their culture; that is really the key to get the deaf to continue coming to services.”
In the past, priests did everything, and “now we are short on them,” Fr. Depcik added. “A lot of priests are working only on a sacrament role and the lay people are doing more pastoral work. The situation can work out well that way when both lay people and priests know American Sign Language.”

For questions, comments or to report inaccuracies on the website, please CLICK HERE.
© Copyright 2022 The Diocese of Salt Lake City. All rights reserved.