And the Deaf Shall Hear Print
Written by Sherry   
Thursday, 03 December 2009 07:46
From Cambodia comes the story of a level of deprivation that is hard to comprehend and one priest who is seeking to address it. (via Indian Catholic).

"Maryknoll Father Charles Dittmeier was the sole representative from Cambodia at the Nov. 19-21 conference on ministry to Catholic deaf people at the Vatican, conducted by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

The American priest is director of the Maryknoll Deaf Development Program in Cambodia and has previously worked with Catholic deaf people in the United States, India and Hong Kong.

He recently wrote this commentary on Church ministry to deaf people in Cambodia:

The Church's ministry to the deaf in Cambodia faces significant challenges. For deaf Cambodians, there is no "God" and no "heaven," as we know them. Cambodian Sign Language has no signs for "God," "heaven" and related concepts.

Cambodia does not even have a Catholic deaf community.

To my knowledge, of the 20,000 Catholics in the country there is not one Catholic deaf person. So Church ministry to deaf people here means ministry to deaf people who are not Catholics and who have no vocabulary for God and Christian concepts.

In this situation, the Cambodian Church can evangelize by our work in the name of the Gospel. This is supported by the Nov. 19-21 conference in Rome on ministry to Catholic deaf people.

One of the recommendations of the Vatican conference was to encourage the Church to help remove all obstacles to the integration of deaf people into society so that they can be trained, find work, develop and use their talents, and contribute to the good of society.

The Maryknoll Deaf Development Program in Cambodia (DDP) tries to do this. It works with deaf people 16 years of age and older who have no language whatsoever -- signed, spoken or written -- and who have never been to school.

Many don't even understand what it means to be deaf.

The DDP teachers note that every time we receive a new group of students, there is some strange dynamic in the classroom in the first week or two. They couldn't figure it out. Then it dawned on them that the new students did not realize that all the other students in the classroom were deaf also. They had never met another deaf person. Throughout their lives they had only been with hearing people."

No language whatever. No word for God. Not knowing that you are not the only person in the world who is deaf. Not knowing what deafness is.

Impossible to imagine. A level of depravation that just takes your breath away. God bless Fr. Dittmeier and all who work with him.

If you can read this, give thanks today for the incredible grace of language. For all who made it possible for you to read this. Give thanks that you can give thanks. That you have the power to give thanks to God.

And pray for the deaf of Cambodia - and elsewhere - who have been deprived of such a basic part of being human.