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Reflect, Embrace and Nurture: The Deaf Catholics Conference

The first Deaf Catholics Conference in over a decade gave the Deaf Community an opportunity to experience their faith in their language, Auslan.

​More than 200 people from the Deaf community, along with pastoral workers, stakeholders and the interpreting community attended the three-day conference in Melbourne

The conference ran from 20-23 August and was hosted at the John Pierce Centre, Melbourne – a dedicated Catholic organisation seeking to empower Deaf people.  Keynote speakers included Terry and Mary O'Meara from the International Catholic Foundation for the Service of Deaf Persons and Dr Breda Carty, Secretary of Deaf History International and a member of the World Federation of the Deaf Expert Group on Deaf culture.

The conference included sessions on spirituality for the aged, the sustainability and evolution of the deaf community and inclusion. It also included a gala dinner, mass and a special ephpheta, which means 'to open' in Aramaic.

Conference organiser and Executive Manager of the John Pierce Centre, Rachel Miers thought the conference was a valuable and inclusive experience for the Deaf Catholic community.

"We aimed for this event to be an enriching experience and to gain further understanding of how we can better support the Deaf community. The theme 'Our Community of Faith - Reflect, Embrace and Nurture' gave us an opportunity to acknowledge our unique community, see its worth, identify its needs and explore ways to encourage our faithful community to thrive."

Guest speaker, Nicole Clark - a hearing Auslan interpreter with more than 15 years' experience interpreting in Catholic settings, delivered a session about the importance of qualified Auslan interpreters in the Church, and the importance of supporting and training these interpreters.

Rachel says "A Deaf person should be able to practice their faith through their own sign language and interpreters are crucial in bridging and accessing information. We learnt how interpreters can work with hearing priests and parishes to consider ways to make their services accessible to the Deaf people living in their communities. It was also a great reminder of the recommendations made by the Vatican in 2009 - where dioceses should have a register of certified interpreters who can work in churches."  

Overall the conference was a tremendous success. For Rachel, the highlight was the gathering of pastoral workers and community members from around Australia and NZ and the outstanding level of access across the event. "We had Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Hearing, and Deafblind people in attendance. Also, a highlight was the selection of outstanding guest speakers who presented across a variety of topics and from different backgrounds – but who ALL left our delegates with the message of HOPE for our community and its sustainability."

If you would like to know more about the Catholic Deaf Community in Victoria, please visit the John Pierce Centre at www.jpc.org.au

CCI is pleased to support the Deaf Catholics Conference. 


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