Signs of Spiritual Comfort

Nearly one-third of the congregation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s (OLMC) Sunday Mass is deaf. As home to the Archdiocese’s deaf ministry, the Northeast Minneapolis parish has offered signed Masses for more than 30 years.

“It’s a beautiful service where these members actively participate by responding using American Sign Language,” says OLMC Parish Business Administrator Willard Miller. “At other churches, you may see someone signing up front, but you don’t see the response. That’s because the deaf parishioners don’t want to stand out. Here, people feel comfortable responding because they’re not alone.” 

Catholics drive in from towns like New Prague, Big Lake, and Hudson for the opportunity to celebrate Mass and communicate with other members of the deaf community.

Doing Much With Little

 Our Lady of Mount Carmel thrives on a small budget of $170k per year. But, they rely heavily on volunteer interpreters who donate their time for Sunday Masses, finance council meetings, and small group ministry meetings.

The parish wants to extend its offerings, but doing so would require paying interpreters. So, Willard inquired the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) about grant opportunities.

The inclusive environment OLMC fosters impresses CCF President Anne Cullen Miller. To provide the parish some breathing room, she awarded them a grant from the President’s Fund.

The parish will use the $2,000 grant to offer a weekend-long deaf retreat. OLMC’s last deaf retreat, held in 2017, drew attendees from five states. “We brought in a deaf priest from Michigan to lead it,” says Willard. “It’s a great way for the deaf community to have the sacrament of penance. It can be done with pen and paper and a shredder, but most folks aren’t so comfortable with that.”

Looking to the Future

OLMC is also taking steps to support their ministry to the deaf perpetually. They recently launched a capital campaign to fund a permanent endowment at CCF. They aim to raise $25,000 on their own in order to receive a CCF Partners for the Future matching grant to establish their $50,000 endowment.

Anne says, “How awesome is that? They’re a growing community, and they’re taking strides to sustain their ministry forever.”