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Standing on the shoulders


Sharing stories and experiences of the Catholic Deaf Community with Archbishop Patrick O’Regan was a highlight of the 60th anniversary celebrations held at St Joseph’s Church Hall, Kingswood, in May.

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Members of the community also spoke about their hopes and concerns for the future as they endeavour to build on the strong community established by a small group of Adelaide families in 1962.

Among the group were the children of Anne and Kevin Cresdee who, with other hearing and deaf Catholics, saw a need for local support for their children’s faith.

At that time deaf children often travelled to Sydney or Melbourne where there were specialised faith-based schools to educate them.

“A small group of families came together – hearing and deaf – and approached Archbishop Beovich,” said Majella O’Sullivan RSJ, who has been ministering to the Deaf Community since the 1980s.

“He appointed Fr John Chambers as the chaplain and the families began worshipping at the Hutt St chapel.”

Sr Majella paid tribute to the founding families, saying the current community was “standing on the shoulders” of their hopes and dreams.

For many years the Dominican Sisters supported the community because of their work in Catholic schools for the deaf and hearing impaired interstate.

Sr Majella described the community as “nomadic” because of the numerous changes to their place of worship and gathering – Glenelg North, Dulwich, Edwardstown, Plympton to name a few.

Sr Philomena Thomas was heavily involved up until 1985 when she was called back to Sydney.

Sr Majella said over the years various parishes had been very supportive but when priests moved this had an impact on the community.

Now happily settled at Kingswood, there are about 30 members gathering on a regular basis and celebrating Liturgy of the Word on the first Sunday of the month. Sr Majella said the group was very welcoming of people from other denominations and currently had members from the Greek Orthodox Church and Baptist Church.

An Auslan interpreter and pastoral associate for the group, Sr Majella provides spiritual and other support.

Tori and Isaac Taylor with baby Oakley.

“We are an ageing community but we also have a young couple with a baby – they are the future,” she said.

Margy Payne, who joined the community in the late 90s, said it was good to have the Archbishop present for the anniversary celebrations.

“We sat in a circle and he listened to all of the stories of our deaf community, our opinions about what was best for us and how we hope to continue running into the future because we are deaf, we are Catholic, and we are a strong group and we look after each other,” she said.

“It’s very important for us to use sign language, Auslan is our language. We can discuss in Auslan about God and about our faith.”

Margy added that it was a special skill to be able to communicate about the faith and religion using sign language because many of the words weren’t commonly used.

“In the past there were plenty of priests and nuns who understood this but now there are less religious people who know what we need,” she said.

Margy’s own faith journey grew from her conversations with Sr Majella which led her to the belief that “I know that God is always there for me to ask for help”.

Now a leader in the community, she said she would like more people to know about the Catholic Deaf Community.

“We need to let people know that we have our own community and that if someone has a child who is deaf or hearing impaired then they can still know about their faith, they are very welcome to join,” she said.

While COVID has made planning for the 60th celebrations difficult, the community hopes to have another major function in August.

After Mass on May 1 the community heard from Donovan Cresdee who thanked the parents who fought for access to religion for their children and the priests and Sisters who supported the community.

Archbishop O’Regan congratulated the community for sticking together “through thick and thin”.

“May you be blessed that God’s grace and peace will be upon you for the next 60 years at least,” he said.


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