Program #0134 for Tuesday, September 13, 2011: Deaf Apostolate and Legatus

September 13, 2011

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor

Today’s guest(s): Fr. Jeremy St. Martin, Director of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Deaf Apostolate, and John Hunt, Executive Director of Legatus International

Today’s topics: Fr. Jeremy St. Martin and his ministry to deaf Catholics; Legatus’ ministry to Catholic CEOs and their spouses

Summary of today’s show: Fr. Jeremy St. Martin tells Scot and Fr. Chris about how he came to the priesthood and the unexpected call to minister to the deaf; as well as all the ways that the Deaf Apostolate works to allow the hearing-impaired to take part fully in the life of the Church. Also, John Hunt of Legatus discusses their ministry to Catholic business executives that recognizes their unique contributions and impact on the culture.

1st segment: Scot asked Fr. Chris how St. John Seminary memorialized September 11. Fr. Chris said they had a beautiful Mass wit the amazing Scriptures for this past Sunday which challenge all of us in the area of forgiveness. Fr. Chris said he was in Washington, DC, on 9/11/01 and he was reminded of the same clear, blu skies. He reflect on praying for the victims and their families. He was also reminded of all the many people who responded to help. He saw at St. Anthony’s Shrine this past weekend that they had a photo of Fr. Mychal Judge, the Franciscan priest who was a NY fire chaplain who died during the response to the attacks.

Scot noted that his kids asked why we still talk about it if it happened 10 years ago? He told them that we don’t want to forget, not just the evil acts, but also the heroism as well as the lesson to live life to fullest and enjoy the many blessings God has given us.

Fr. Chris also said he was at Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston for a Portuguese festival of the Holy Spirit where the children receive a special blessing.

Scot said one of the 23 languages the Mass is celebrated in at the Archdiocese of Boston is American Sign Language. Fr. Jeremy St. Martin is the director of the Deaf Apostolate.

2nd segment: Scot and Fr. Chris welcome Fr. Jeremy St. Martin to the show. Scot asked him how God planted the seed that led to his ordination. Fr. Jeremy said his parents became very active in the Church when he was about 6 or 7 years old. The change he saw in his parents profoundly affected him at that time. He recalls going to a new parish at the time and he wasn’t too impressed by what he saw, although when his grandparents came with them, that caught his attention. While his mother and her mother-in-law were as different as could be, he saw them change in their relationship to one another during the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass. This was his first experience of the Mass and he was intrigued by what was happening. As time went on, he became an altar server and got to know the elderly priest who was serving the parish in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Seeing the devotion and simple joy of the old priest, Fr. Jeremy at the time wondered if that’s what God was calling him to.

As he went to college, it became harder to continue to practice his faith. He had two friends who were the first in his group of friends to fall in love together and he remembered seeing them together after Mass one Sunday and realizing that they would one day be married and have children. And as he thought about it, he wondered who would baptize the children and it occurred to him that it might be him.

A priest once said you have to see if you have the Health, Holiness, Head, and Heart. You don’t have to be perfect in every way, but you have to be doing okay with all of them. Heart in particular is a desire for the salvation of souls. The priest then said people considering vocations should get a regular confessor. Fr. Jeremy was still discerning at this time. The confessor didn’t say anything in any of their meetings for a whole year, and at the end of the year, Fr. Jeremy confronted him and asked him what he thought. He finally told him that he thought he’d be a great priest.

Fr. Jeremy looked at many different religious orders because he thought he’d need that community, but he discovered in the Archdiocese of Boston that there is in fact a lot of fraternal support among the priests. He heard that you have to grow where you are planted, and having lived in Boston many years, he entered St. John’s Seminary.

Scot asked Fr. Jeremy what led him to want to serve deaf Catholics. He was ordained in 2002 and was assigned to St. Cecilia’s in Ashland. Three years in to the assignment, the pastor told him that the archdiocese called and they wanted him to start studying for the last two years of his assignment. They wanted him to study to serve the deaf. This came out of left field. He had never had any deaf friends or family and didn’t know any sign language. But now he was to become the new director of the deaf apostolate, including providing assistance to a deaf seminarian in formation, now Fr. Shawn Carey, the first deaf priest for the Archdiocese of Boston. Of course, Fr. Jeremy said Yes, but he did ask why him and he was told there was no one else and he was naturally expressive, which helps with being a deaf interpreter. IT also needs to be someone who is creative because deaf ministry is very different from regular parish ministry because there isn’t a lot of institutional experience in the archdiocese.

Fr. Chris said Fr. Jeremy was an undergrad at Mass. College of Art and Design and majored in applying new technology to the arts. It had a heavy emphasis on the performing arts. His training could help him manage the stage at an opera, for example, with all the technical requirements. It helped him prepare to stand before a crowd and present himself in public without being overly shy.

Fr. Chris said Fr. Jeremy is often seen on CatholicTV, signing for the Cardinal or other people at major events and Masses. He asked Fr. Jeremy the greatest joys of serving the deaf community. It is seeing the community have the Gospel take root in them and share it with each other. Many of them had never heard the saving mysteries of the faith because of the isolation. At World Youth Day, they coordinated with deaf ministries throughout Canada and the US to go together to Madrid and WYD brings young deaf people from all over the world together and meet each other. It was an enormous amount of work for both the leaders and the pilgrims. They often had to be go through extra obstacles, like arriving early for special screening. It’s also the case that many of the deaf have other physical challenges as well. In the end, one of the young people said that they felt like a member of the Body of Christ. For a deaf person to say that is even more surprising given that it is a Christian idiom and very abstract.

Scot said Fr. Jeremy signs with such joy and it’s clear he loves this ministry. It’s helped Scot to appreciate this ministry and how much effort they take to include everyone. Fr. Shawn Carey signs the Mass when he celebrates it at the Pastoral Center. It’s amazing how the God’s will gets expressed through the bishop as the ministry seems a good fit with Fr. Jeremy’s skills and temperament.

3rd segment: Scot asked about the activities of the deaf apostolate. Sacred Heart in Newton has a Mass in sign language every Sunday at 10:30 and on holy days. Fr. Chris said in regards to the directions for celebrating the Mass, sometimes they say the priest should “audibly say” something. He asked how that works. In canon law, there is a canon that goes back to the First Council of Orange that said deaf people can exchange marriage vows in clear sign, so it was a recognition that sign language is a true language in which sacramental grace can be conveyed. There’s also another canon which says a deaf person can request an interpreter in confession which is interesting regarding the seal of confession. It recognizes that they are real professionals capable of being discrete. So what the Church asks of deaf ministries is that they take the responsibility for making up for what is lacking for a person who is deaf because the ordinary situation of the Church is set up for the hearing.

Fr. Jeremy said some direction for Mass (“rubric”) have the priest say things inaudibly, doesn’t say it, or says it audibly. Deaf ministry proclaims that which needs to be proclaimed to those who can’t hear in ways that they can hear.

Scot said it’s interesting to observe Fr. Carey and see how clear it is what he is doing and praying at the same time that hearing priests would be praying aloud. It is a different form of language and communication, but it is indeed language and communication. It’s not unlike attending Mass in another country and hearing the Mass prayed in a different language there.

Fr. Jeremy said the apostolate also provides hospital coverage for the whole archdiocese, providing ministry to the sick and dying as well as to the deaf families and friends. They also provide assistance in weddings and funerals, even if it’s just for those who are attending and deaf. They also provide marriage preparation and RCIA, which is a big need because many deaf people couldn’t find good access to catechetical formation early in life. They also work with deaf youth. A full list of their ministries is on their website as well as many videos in which many blogs are provided in American Sign Language.

4th segment: Joining us from Ave Maria, Florida, is John Hunt of Legatus. Scot asked him about the organization as an outreach to Catholic business executives. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary year. It was founded by Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza, after a meeting with Pope John Paul II where he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to assist in helping the laity to drive the new evangelization of the 21st century. He immediately founded the organization upon his return to the US. He saw the value of the role of business leaders in the life of the Church. They are in a unique position to have an impact for good on the culture and specifically on those who are employed them and their families, people they do business with, and their customers.

Scot said John was a business CEO before working for Legatus. John said he was invited to join by a member who thought he and his wife would enjoy the monthly get-togethers. He had no idea what to expect before attending an event. The typical gathering includes the Rosary, the Mass, dinner, and a speaker. John said business people approach the issues of the marketplace and the Church in a highly structured and ordered way as they approach their business decisions, so when they are together with others of like mind who are serving the Church, you realize you are in friendly company with people in a unique position to do good for society.

John said there is a sense of camaraderie. One may think of a Legatus chapter as something like a support group, in the best sense of the word. They are people who want to do the right thing and are reinforced in that desire by those they surround themselves with at their gatherings. Personally, he’s been strengthened in his faith by the example he’s seen in his own Chicago chapter and as executive director. There are 75 chapters in the US and outside the country. There are about 2,000 CEO members and in most cases their spouses. Spouses are full members along with their husbands or wives, so there are about 4,000 members. They hope to grow the organization by about 50% over the next few years.

Scot said there Legatus chapter in Boston, in Providence, and in Western Mass. that meets in the Springfield area. The Boston chapter’s next meeting is September 28 and Lou Lataif, a former executive of Ford Motor Company and a professor at Boston University. The meeting will be at the Pastoral Center in Braintree at 5:30pm. John said Lou Lataif is a longtime friend and will be a good kickoff speaker for Legatus. He said the Boston schedule through next year includes Tom Monaghan; John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America; George Weigel; Michael Novak; Tom Peterson of Catholics Come Home; Tim Flanagan of Catholic Leadership Institute; Archbishop Tim Broglio of the Military Archdiocese; and Cardinal Se├ín. John said interested people should take a look at Legatus as a way to enhance the CEO and their spouse’s faith life.

Interested people can call 781-369-5048 or send an email to LegatusBoston@gmail.com.

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