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Boston to host national deaf Catholic conference

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BOSTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston's Deaf Apostolate will host the 2012 National Catholic Office for the Deaf Pastoral Week beginning Jan. 13 at the Hilton in Back Bay.

The five-day event ends on Jan. 17 with a closing Mass with Father Chris Klusman, one of only nine deaf priests in the United States. Another of those nine, Father Shawn Carey, archdiocesan assistant director for the Deaf Apostolate, will celebrate Mass and give a presentation about World Youth Day.

"We're very thrilled to have the opportunity to have the conference here," Father Carey said, through an American Sign Language interpreter.

The organization's director at the Pastoral Center, Father Jeremy St. Martin, and Father Carey said the Deaf Apostolate of the Archdiocese of Boston is ready and enthusiastic to highlight the work done in the city for the deaf community.

"There is a lot of history of the deaf community in the Catholic Ministries here in Boston, a lot of longevity. It's just a wonderful community to be hosting this event," Father Carey said.

For the conference, guests and speakers will come in from all over the country to speak on a variety of topics.

National Catholic Office for the Deaf episcopal representative, Bishop Kevin Rhoades, of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., will open the event with a Mass at St. Francis Chapel, before a welcome reception at Fenway Park.

"For this particular convention, one of our main goals is for all the different dioceses to have the deaf ministers and the deaf people that are worshiping to really support each other. So, our primary goal is to have the networking of the deaf community here, because there are many deaf ministers in the office that are a little bit isolated," Father Carey said.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley will celebrate Mass on Jan. 14 for the participants at Sacred Heart Church in Newton, which celebrates an American Sign Language Mass with voice interpretation every Sunday.

"There will be Mass, and a lot of prayer together, which is of course also very important," Father Carey said.

Former director of the archdiocese's Deaf Apostolate Office Father Mike Medas will give a presentation called "Empowering Deaf Leadership" on Jan. 15.

Also that day, Father Carey will lead a panel presenting the experience of the Boston Deaf Catholic youth at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid.

"We are really encouraging other districts to join us for the next World Youth Day," Father Carey said.

A banquet and award ceremony will close out the weekend.

Workshops on Jan. 16 will begin with Lauri Przybysz, a past-president of Christian Family Movement, presenting on the topic of family ministry.

"Just like any family, if they are deaf or not, the realization that they in their own activity with their own families have an opportunity to live their faith in a very important way," Przybysz said.

She also pointed out that Pope John Paul II saw evangelizing in the home as integral to the faith.

"People often think, 'Well, everything is at church.' Well, actually everything important happens at home, and then we celebrate it at church," she said.

On Jan. 17, after a workshop on confirmation preparation presented by Sister Kathleen Schipani and Father Mike Depcik, Father Klusman will close the conference with a Mass.

"For this conference we really are hoping to get a greater sense of community and common interest, so we can share sort of the wealth and support the communities that are outside of the main area, so we have more of a consolidated group," Father Carey said.

Father Carey welcomed the opportunity to face the problem present within the deaf community, as geographic separation between deaf communities, individuals and groups can create isolation on a large scale.

"We are really trying to get these groups together, and see that the deaf community has brothers and sisters in Christ," Father Carey said.

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