09/10/2009, 00.00
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The mission of an Indian religious; "So even the deaf hear the Good News"

by Nirmala Carvalho
The experience of Fr KV George, for years engaged in work for the deaf. "The Church has been dealing with it since the time of St. Augustine." Today there is a ministry dedicated to them that makes them "silent spectators in the churches" and help us to "recover the simple, visible and concrete aspects of faith and liturgy."

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "A disabled child often makes his family disabled. This is why it is imperative that the priests encourage the faithful to go in search of these people who are in need of special pastoral attention".

Br. VK George has been engaged in work for the deaf in India for years. A religious of the Monfortana Family he is now secretary and treasurer of the Congregation of the Brothers of St. Gabriel for the north-east province. He lives in Guwahati in Assam state in one of 155 schools run by the family, nine of which are dedicated exclusively to the deaf.

According to some statistics, people with hearing loss in India number around 60 million, almost 6% of the population. The numbers, however, do not do justice to the magnitude of the phenomenon that also affects the lives of families of the disabled. "Impotence" and "social exclusion" are two words that Fr. George uses to describe the condition in which often not only the disabled live but also their relatives. For over thirty years Montfortian priest has dedicated them his time and his energies. He received his doctorate in Special Education at the University of Manila and has specialized in audiology at University College Dublin.

The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care has decided to dedicate its next international conference, scheduled for November at the Vatican, to the theme “Ephphatha! The deaf person in the life of the Church”. 

Br. George is excited about the choice and said: "It is essential to create greater awareness among the faithful at the parish level so they may have an important role in the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities, along with their families in the everyday life of local communities"

The religious explains that "the Church has been involved in educating deaf people since the time of St. Augustine." Technical research, education and rehabilitation are the areas where for centuries religious and lay Catholics are committed to helping the deaf to aid their integration into society. "But more and more often - according to Br. George - the deaf are silent spectators in churches and liturgy, and priests do not pay enough attention to them. "

For the religious, the Church, especially in India, can not ignore this fact and hopes that the Congress held in the Vatican will help to develop a ministry dedicated to the deaf. "Many elements of the faith - says Br. George - are abstract and distant for the deaf who have not developed language skills in childhood. It is not by chance that they are referred to as "the people of the eyes" and this encourages the Church to recover the simple, visible and concrete aspects of faith and liturgy. "

The religious points out some possibilities that the Indian Church, but not only, could follow to develop a ministry for the deaf. From the choice of devoting some priests, properly trained, to the task of exclusively following people with disabilities and their families. From their work and professional contribution "we may even arrive at a sign language codification of the liturgy."    

"Our care for the deaf - says Br. George taking as an example the work of the Monfortian  Family - must not confined to the four walls of the parishes or institutions, but must permeate the lives of our communities. We read in the gospel that every time Christ touched a disabled man he healed him. This is the model that we must follow in our pastoral care of the handicapped so the Good News may be heard by all, even by the deaf. "

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