As someone who studied to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP), I was excited to learn about an extraordinary parish especially devoted to the deaf community in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. I had seen an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter at a regular Mass but had no idea that this parish existed. It wasn’t until a news report highlighted how, for Holy Thursday, this parish didn’t do a washing of the feet but a washing of the hands!
Established on March 31, 1987, by two deaf priests, this parish came as an answer to the deaf community. The (then) 25-35 parishioners had been traveling from parish to parish, seeking churches which would allow them to celebrate Mass. The following year they were able to find an abandoned parish to call their own.
The Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf doesn’t just have ASL translators. They have two separate Masses; one in English and the other in Spanish. What makes them even more unique is that their priests and deacon are also deaf. In fact, the entire staff knows ASL so communication with the community will not be a problem.
These days, there are between 300 and 500 regular parishioners at Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf. According to their website, 95% of the parishioners or of Hispanic and Latin heritage, the majority being of Mexican and South American ancestry.
Other services they offer
The parish is “one of the very few places where Spanish-speaking parents of deaf children and youth can come for assistance with education, social justice, and advocacy.” If that weren’t enough, they also offer religious education and have a Boy Scouts troop for the community.
A word of caution for those who are not deaf but wish to attend Mass at this parish: they play the music loud. The deaf parishioners need the extremely loud volume in order to feel the vibrations in their chests and lungs. I would suggest protecting your ears as best as you can to avoid any hearing damage.
Can’t come to Los Angeles to visit this parish? Your diocese may have special Masses for the Deaf community. While it may not have a sole parish like there is in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, they may, at least, offer a Mass for this community.
St. Francis de Sales, patron of the deaf community, pray for the community and those who serve them!