The work of the Deaf and Disability Ministries within Catholic Charities Kansas City- Saint Joseph benefits all with disabilities whether physical or developmental. Their Mission Statement simply sums that up: “The mission of the Deaf and Disability Ministries Department of Catholic Charities Kansas City- St. Joseph is to support the faith life of individuals living with deafness and/or disability. Our work also addresses the need for accessibility in parishes. Overall, we seek to facilitate the full engagement of persons with disabilities in the life of their individual faith communities throughout the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph”.
There are many ways the Deaf and Disabilities Ministries have been able to connect with the community. One way is the American Sign Language classes they hold and interpretation at Mass. Lisa Wagner-Carollo, Deaf and Disability Ministries Coordinator said, “A lot of what we do is to help people who are deaf be able to come to Mass and follow along and participate completely”.
Rhonda Scott and Becky Turner, interpreters in the Deaf and Disability Ministries, do ASL every Sunday at at least one church within the diocese. Wagner-Carollo mentions they have a fund for Holy Week services and other special events called the Pastoral Ministry Discretionary Fund. Whether it is a confirmation or a wedding, it is a community fund that allows them to go and sign at those events at no cost to the people that are requesting interpretation. A year ago, they began doing ASL classes, holding two sessions, one for beginners, and another more advanced.
The Deaf and Disability’s Ministries “TOGETHER” newsletter is a big way they do outreach in the diocese and community. In this newsletter, they have a column called “Faith Journey”, where they highlight a local story of someone who has or is connected to someone with a disability. “[We are] just trying to raise consciousness in some ways around disability” Wagner-Carollo said. If you would like to be added to our “TOGETHER” newsletter, scan the QR code to be added to the email list.
Another way is through the We Care and Connect Committee. It started through a documentary Wagner-Carollo co-produced called “None of Us Want to Stand Still” with Rush University Hospital in Chicago. One of the main goals of the committee is to: Identifying the concerns of individuals with special needs, identifying available medical resources, identifying available community resources, and increasing communication between medical resources and community resources.
“On November 6th, 2021, we had a mini conference that involved doctors, nurses, and self-care providers to talk about better healthcare for adults with developmental disabilities and how to connect those resources.” Wagner-Carollo said. Through a co-sponsorship with Josh Ruoff, Lead Consultant for Special Needs for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, Wagner-Carollo hopes through this committee that it will not just affect Kansas City, but the whole region.
The Deaf and Disabilities Ministries is still growing and adapting to the needs in our region. In February of 2021, we became a chapter of the Association for Catholic Mental Health Ministers. This mental health ministry is available to the entire diocese. Catholic Charities received a grant from the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers to create the Parish Mental Health Coordinator position to meet this need.
For more information on these services and how to volunteer, please contact Lisa Wagner-Carollo, Deaf and Disabilities Ministries Coordinator, at 816.659.8262 or email@example.com
Austin Fitzgerald is the Communications Assistant VISTA at Catholic Charities Kansas City- St. Joseph
Deaf and Disabilities Ministries offers resources that can help people in need.
One of those is Twiddles, a sensory toy for children with Autism to make them feel more comfortable in Mass.
The other is Ubi Duos, a communication device that deaf people can use to communicate with the people around them.