Bring hope and share Christ’s message this Lent

19 March 2019
Christiane Kassab. Image: Supplied.

 

The Catholic Foundation Diocese of Parramatta supports works of Faith, Hope and Charity across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Our current appeal seeks to build support for the Ephpheta Centre. If you would like to help, please click here to make a donation today.

My dear people,

Lent is a time of reflection and outreach, and a time to deepen one’s faith for fruitful witness.

It’s also a time to share our blessings with our brothers and sisters who feel vulnerable or alone – people like Christiane.

When Christiane started losing her hearing, she felt scared and confused.

“I began having difficulty hearing at 14. I had a bunch of hearing tests but the results were inconclusive. Then I got sent for an MRI and they found tumours on my hearing nerves.

Losing my hearing was earth-shattering. I experienced so many struggles and challenges growing up.

I kept asking, why is this happening? I remember just wanting to disappear.” – Christiane

Living with deafness or hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s social interaction with others, causing them to feel left out and unable to participate in their community.

Members of the Ephpheta Centre meeting Pope Francis. Image: Supplied.

The Ephpheta Centre, one of the ministries jointly funded by the Parramatta Catholic Foundation, provides a safe, welcoming community where people of all ages who are deaf and hard of hearing can enjoy accessible spiritual and social support, pastoral care and God’s gifts of the sacraments.

Christiane remembers the first time she visited the Ephpheta Centre as a day that changed her life.

“After my first surgery I was left completely without hearing. I can’t really describe that feeling … to see people like me, especially at a time when I was feeling confused.

When you’re going through the process of losing your hearing, it’s emotionally so deep and can be quite dark.

The pastoral care and emotional support from the Ephpheta Centre had a profound impact on me.” – Christiane

Thanks to the Ephpheta Centre in Punchbowl, people who are deaf and hard of hearing can talk with priests, pastoral care and community workers who are fluent in sign language. They can share the Gospel, celebrate their faith and participate in the sacraments at accessible and integrated Masses at the Ephpheta Centre, in churches in our diocese, across Sydney and the Central Coast.

The Ephpheta Centre provides accessible baptisms, confessions, communion, confirmation, marriages and funerals. Pastoral care is also given to the sick and those who are dying through outreach visits in their homes, hospital, prison, and in aged care facilities.

Opportunities to socialise, make meaningful connections and develop friendships are available through regular outings and events, including spiritual pilgrimages, special interest groups, and deaf cafés at the Ephpheta Centre and in the community.

The word Ephpheta, from the sacred Aramaic language spoken by Jesus, means ‘be opened’. In St Mark’s Gospel (7:31-37) we read how Jesus put his fingers into a deaf- mute’s ears, spat and touched the man’s tongue. He said to the man “Ephpheta” and he was healed. His ears were opened, his speech impediment removed. Our interpretation of St Mark’s Gospel is being opened in our hearts and to all in our community.

The Ephpheta Centre is an open place where everyone from the deaf community is welcome. They don’t have to be Catholic – the Centre supports people of different faiths, religions and beliefs, different cultures and languages.

Thanks to the support, friendship and hope she found through the Ephpheta Centre, Christiane now has a place where she belongs, as she explained recently:

“Being deaf is not just the physical aspect of losing hearing. It’s about belonging to a community.

It’s about culture, community, family. Having access to communication and Auslan; the sign language of our deaf community.

Using sign language is very important to me. That is my life, and that is my Catholic faith. I feel like I am a full person having those things in my life.” – Christiane

Being able to communicate with a priest fluent in sign language can be life-changing for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, especially at important times in their life.

As part of their ministry, Fr Michael Lanzon, Fr John Paul Escarlan and Fr Shinto Francis studied Auslan and Fr Fernando Montano learnt Chinese sign language.

Demand for increased support of our deaf community is strong. Training more priests, and seminarians like Matthew Dimian and Adam Carlow, to converse in sign language will enable them to have deeper, meaningful conversations with people like Christiane, in their language.

Members of the Ephpheta Centre. Image: Supplied.

A Lenten gift to support the Ephpheta Centre will bridge barriers to communication and connection, giving people who are deaf and hard of hearing a sense of belonging, independence, and a more inclusive spiritual life.

As well as giving Christiane a community and enabling her to participate fully in her faith, the Ephpheta Centre inspired her to become a social worker, to give others the kind of support she was blessed to be given.

“After I finished school, I undertook a Diploma in Auslan, a Certificate III in Children’s Services and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I wanted to make change.

I’ve been supporting people like me for more than three years as a Community Worker at the Ephpheta Centre. Waking up and being excited to come to work, that’s what keeps me alive. I love working and supporting our deaf community.” – Christiane

Everyone should have the opportunity to know and experience the life-giving Word of the Lord. But without our support, many of our brothers and sisters who are deaf and hard of hearing will remain isolated and marginalized.

This Lent, you can bring hope to people like Christiane who are deaf and hard of hearing – and share Christ’s message with all.

I encourage you to reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and ask you to open your heart and bring hope to the deaf and hard of hearing, the vulnerable and lonely.

Whenever we doubt our ability to help those in need, we remember the Gospel according to St Matthew: “And the King will answer, ‘I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’”

Please pray for the Catholic ministries in our diocese supported by the Parramatta Catholic Foundation – including the Ephpheta Centre for the deaf and hard of hearing – so they may continue to bring comfort and care to our brothers and sisters who rely upon their support.

Thank you and God bless,

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta

 

 

Please give generously to the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal and share Christ’s message with all.

Your compassionate gift will help provide pastoral, sacramental and social support, enabling the deaf and hard of hearing, the vulnerable and isolated, to make meaningful connections and participate fully in their community, their faith and Catholic Church life.

To donate to the Parramatta Catholic Foundation Bishop’s Lenten Appeal, visit yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/appeal.

 

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