Policies for Working with Interpreters at Mass and the Celebration of Sacraments

  1. Interpreting at Mass or any liturgical celebration demands a special role on the part of the interpreter. The interpreter “facilitates communication so that the parties involved have equal access to information.” In a prayer setting, an interpreter’s role is not merely to convey information, but to facilitate the Deaf people’s “full and active participation” in the liturgy.
  2. At most liturgies, a single interpreter works throughout. When a Deaf person proclaims the readings in sign language, the interpreter proclaims the readings orally (voices the readings).
  3. It is never appropriate to place the Deaf congregation and the interpreter “on the side” or out of sight of the liturgy. The visual element is vital for Deaf people as they need to see the actions of the priest and what is happening around the altar area.
  4. Deaf persons must focus on the interpreter for everything that is spoken. For Deaf persons to be able to see – and to participate – in the action of the liturgy, it is necessary for the interpreter be as close as possible to that action. This means that the interpreter will stand near the priest at the chair, the pulpit, and the altar and near the lector during the readings. In churches with very large sanctuaries, such as a cathedral, it may be advantageous for the Deaf participants if the interpreter is closer to them, outside the sanctuary. If that is the case, then the interpreter should be in line of sight with the altar.
  5. The interpreter should be given a copy of all texts used in the service in advance; such as readings, petitions, lyrics for all songs, commentary and if possible the homily. An interpreter may wish to have a music stand during the service to enable quick reference to a text.
  6. When an Interpreter is present for a liturgical celebration, it is important to be sure adequate lighting is provided for the interpreter. Often liturgical celebrations will use dimmed lighting in a prayerful setting. This is difficult for Deaf people attending, since they are unable to see the interpreter. In such cases, special lighting should be available to illuminate the interpreter.
  7. Some song lyrics are difficult to translate into sign language. Ideally, a representative of the Deaf community or an interpreter can be part of the liturgy planning process, to enable a selection that is meaningful and accessible to all.
  8. One would need to be sensitive to the situation i.e. a funeral, by checking out with the family beforehand as to how they would like the interpreter to stand on the sanctuary or move elsewhere to respect the grieving family’s wishes.
  9. It would be necessary for the interpreter to check with the Deaf congregation which mode of sign language they would prefer …. ISL or SSE. It may not be possible to facilitate the person in their preference, but every effort should be made. It is equally important for the interpreter to check with the priest of the Liturgy beforehand to explain the work of an interpreter during these services. The priest may feel ill at ease with the presence of interpreter and may resent the fact that all the attention is focused on the interpreter. Some will be adaptable and welcoming while others may be a little hesitant and less facilitating.