Ms. Frankie Berry (National Chaplaincy for Deaf People) and Mrs. Maura Buckley (Catholic Institute for Deaf People) both made history in November 2009 by chairing a session and delivering a key presentation in the New Synod Hall, in the Vatican, Rome during the 24th International Conference hosted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. Frankie Berry was possibly the first Deaf Woman ever to chair a session at an international conference in the Synod Hall.
The theme of the conference was “EPHPHATHA! THE DEAF PERSON IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH.It was a unique opportunity for members of the Deaf Community from all over the world who are involved in the life and work of the Catholic Church to address the leaders of the Church and to enlighten them on sociological, psychological, medical, familial and especially pastoral realities of deaf people as members of the Church.
The Conference was hosted by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers and was attended in the course of the three days by cardinals, bishops and clerical representatives from the Vatican and from around the world as well as government and diplomatic representative from various countries.
It was a wonderfully rich gathering of talented and accomplished Deaf and Hearing members of the Church whose involvement, initiatives and experiences in their Deaf Communities and their local churches had much to offer by way of insight and advice to those in Leadership in the Church.
The success of the conference will be judged on the response in the future of the hierarchy in promoting and encouraging access and full participation of members of the Deaf Community in the Life of the Church. The signs of growth in awareness by this office of the Institutional Church were encouraging from the final statement: And I quote:
“By organizing this Conference devoted to the Deaf Person in the life of the Church, the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Workers has intended to send a strong message so as to underline the fact that the problems experienced by Deaf people, living members of the Church, deserve attention as was stressed by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, during the Papal audience granted to the participants of this XXIV International Conference, with these words:
“You are not only the recipients of the announcement of the Gospel message, but are, by full right, also the agents, by virtue of your Baptism”
At the end of this conference the following recommendations were made by this Pontifical Council and circulated to every diocese bishop worldwide.
Veronica White (Kerry) & Denise Flack (Belfast) from the NCDP supplied interpreting and translating services. Fr. Joe Jones (former National Director of the National Chaplaincy for Deaf People and member of the board of the Catholic Institute for Deaf People) also acted as an interpreter and had the honour along with Maura Buckley of greeting The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI