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New Religious Community Founded to Evangelize the Deaf

OAKLAND, CA -- A new community, whose ministry is not only to deaf people but whose members are also deaf, is being created in California. A recent article in America Magazine reported the new foundation. The members hope it will become a new expression of Dominican life.

Deaf since birth, Rev. Thomas Coughlin has founded the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate. The priest of the Diocese of Honolulu was one of five men who made their first profession of vows on Aug. 27 at St. Albert’s Priory in Oakland, Calif. The lifelong dream to start a religious community where sign language is the primary means of expression at both the eucharistic table and the dinner table is finally becoming a reality.

Coughlin describes the group as a canonically erected as a private association of the faithful .

Rev. Roberto Corral, OP, provincial of Holy Name Province, is working with the group as they continue to carry out the steps necessary for approval as a Dominican community.

According to America, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Father Coughlin told The Hawaii Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Honolulu Diocese, in an interview by e-mail. “I saw how badly we need a religious community of deaf priests and brothers dedicated to a deeper spiritual life and the deaf apostolate in the language of signs and the deaf culture milieu.”

The five men pronounced their vows before Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of Oakland, Calif., who formally recognized the new community in 2004. Father Coughlin will remain a diocesan priest until he makes his final vows in a few years. The other four men are in various stages of preparation for the priesthood. The religious community also has two novices.

During his 25 years as a priest, Fr Coughlin said he has seen thousands of deaf Catholics join other churches because the "Catholic Church did not have a significant number of priests to minister to the deaf community."

The National Catholic Office of the Deaf agrees that there is a desperate need for deaf priests with between 100,000 and 170,000 people in California who are deaf and only three per cent who are churchgoers.

Other deaf seminarians are from Uganda, Congo Brazzaville and South Korea.

Sources: America Magazine, September 18, 2006, Catholic News Service,
Holy Name Province, Oakland, CA

Rev. Thomas Couglin

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