09/14/2010, 00.00
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In Kota Kinabalu, Mass in which the deaf can hear the Good News

by Jeremy Lim
A group of volunteers provides the service. Songs, readings, the Gospel and homily are available in sign language. Launched 20 years ago, the initiative allows up to 80 hearing-impaired faithful, especially children, to follow the Sunday Mass.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – In the archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu (Sabah, East Malaysia), the hearing-impaired can “hear” the Good News. Every Sunday, volunteers from the deaf ministry translate everything that is said or done into sign language—songs, readings, the Gospel, homily and other parts of the mass—during Mass at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Kota Kinabalu. The service started more than 20 years ago, and has become an invaluable tool in helping the hearing-impaired to understand and participate in the Sunday Mass.

“Translation is done in real-time and at an impressive speed,” said Irene Gubud, a 38-year-old deaf woman who has attended the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the past eight years.

Deaf parishioners can only understand the mass if the quality of signing is good. This means that volunteers from the deaf ministry must be well trained, especially if the priest uses a more complex language, she explained.

Up to 80 deaf parishioners go to Sunday Mass at the cathedral, many of them schoolchildren from distant villages who come by shuttle bus provided by the parish.

One parishioner called Mary told AsiaNews that the service is crucial for her “deaf son who can follow the Mass here. At another church, the quality of the signing was not as good and he could not understand” what was said.

“At the Cathedral,” she noted, “the sign language is easier to follow and my son can understand the Mass and the homily.”

About 30 per cent of the population in Sabah is Christian.

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