By Jason Follett
For The Catholic Messenger
Christians know that each person has innate dignity. Peggy Chicoine of Ankeny, Iowa, has spent decades making sure those who are deaf experience dignity within the Catholic faith community.
She has interpreted numerous Masses and events. Additionally, she serves as the Deaf Ministry coordinator for the Diocese of Des Moines.
“My true mission is to help deaf people open their hearts to see how powerful God is in their lives,” Chicoine said. When Pope Francis declared the Year of Mercy, she knew it was time to bring her mission to fruition by organizing the first Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) for the Deaf.
Since 1974, CEW has given adults an awareness and appreciation of this fullness of life. Founded by Father George Karnik and the late Msgr. Joseph O’Brien of the Archdiocese of Dubuque and Sister Carole Freking, OSF, a Dubuque Franciscan, CEW is an adaptation of the Cursillo movement. The weekend typically begins on a Friday evening and ends late Sunday afternoon. For the past 42 years, thousands of Christian adults have been able to more deeply experience themselves and their relationship to God through CEW, its supporters say.
Peggy and her husband Daryl first turned to their CEW community, based at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart (OLIH) Parish in Ankeny, to see if it would be possible to implement CEW for the deaf community. After receiving support and encouragement from their pastor, Msgr. Stephen Orr, and the local CEW core team, a pilot project was conducted during CEW retreats held earlier this year.
“With interpreters available to them all weekend, it was a very wonderful experience to watch these deaf participants experience the insights, the prayers and the community support of the weekend,” remarked Msgr. Orr.
“There was real joy shining forth from them. They were such a positive witness to the rest of us.”
While the pilot was a success, conducting a solely deaf CEW would require tailor-made changes. One critical change was recruiting and transporting priests and deacons from across the United States who already serve the deaf community and can communicate through American Sign Language. “We are blessed that Father Paul Zirimenya of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Father Shawn Carey of the Archdiocese of Boston, Deacon Patrick Graybill of the Diocese of Rochester, N.Y., and Deacon Ralph Hinch of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who are all deaf, agreed to be on the team and share their leadership, faith, witness, journey and enthusiasm with the participants,” said Chicoine.
Other adaptations were necessary, such as how to conduct a retreat with male and female participants on the same weekend. The increased budget required to offer CEW for the deaf came to fruition through a successful fundraising campaign and the generosity of many benefactors. “As we celebrate 20 years of CEW at OLIH, what a wonderful gift to give the deaf by offering them a weekend that will meet their needs and give them a lift in their own lives of faith. I am proud of our OLIH community for stepping up and providing funds to make this CEW for the Deaf possible,” said Msgr. Orr.
“It is so exciting to see how the Holy Spirit keeps inspiring people to expand CEW in new ways far beyond our original vision of CEW in 1974,” shared Sr. Freking. “As Jesus had special care for persons of all abilities, I am confident God’s Spirit will anoint all who are part of this new endeavor.”
“One of the key talks on a CEW is Christian Apostolic Action. This weekend for hearing-impaired people is a marvelous example,” reflected Fr. Karnik.
The first ever CEW for the Deaf will be held Oct. 28-30 at OLIH in Ankeny. Cost for the weekend, which includes all meals and sleeping accommodations is $50 with financial assistance available. Registration materials can be found at http://olih.org/cewretreats/ with a deadline of Oct. 14. For more information, contact Chicoine by voice/text at (515) 720-6120, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Gus and Dee Cordero at VP number: (515) 412-4330.
Sign language at Mass in Davenport
Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport offers Mass the second Sunday of each month at 11 a.m. with a sign language interpreter. The church is located at 4105 N. Division St. People interested in attending this Mass are asked to let the parish know so that the people coordinating this ministry can communicate changes, additional outreach or ministries that might happen in the future, said Father Jake Greiner, pastor. You can contact Fr. Greiner at greinerj@ diodav.org or the parish office at email@example.com. The office phone number is (563) 391-4245. The website page is www.olvjfk.com.