By Mairgread Gray
WEBSTER – “The Body of Christ has no geographical boundaries!”
So believes Joan Machado, a tireless disciple for bringing people to Christ at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.
So, every first Sunday of the month, a signer will interpret the Mass using American Sign Language (ASL) at 6 p.m. Ms. Machado said the signer (or interpreter) is to sign the whole Mass: the readings, Eucharistic prayers, homily, and the music. Also, the 10 a.m. Easter Mass, March 27, will be signed.
Asked if she had met the signer, Ms. Machado said no, but she knew it was a young woman.
“She did come down to one of the Masses; she wants to remain anonymous since this is a job for her and not a ministry,” said Ms. Machado.
This story all began last Thanksgiving when Father Adam R. Reid, pastor, (known with affection as Fr. Adam) realized there was no service available for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Worcester Diocese. Fr. Adam had noticed a parishioner who had a visiting relative, who was deaf.
Ms. Machado laughed when she recalled how Fr. Adam asked her to look into it – “Fr. Adam – service to people ministry – he’s big on that.”
Reached by phone, Fr. Adam said he chose Ms. Machado to do the searching for a signer because “Joan is very effective and efficient, and professional. She is able to build a ministry – that was seen with the Coffeehouse ministry…She’s building a ministry. She inspired me.”
Ms. Machado started a search to find someone to do this job of signing. “I did an online search; went to colleges; wrote to language professors; contacted state agencies – they won’t give you someone’s name, but they will take your request for a date and service. I believe I finally contacted a professor at Northeastern University, and he referred me to another person, and that person referred me to a signer at The Learning Center for the Deaf’ (TLC) in Framingham.
“She’s (the signer) doing it as a job, not a ministry. She wants to keep it as a professional task (hence her anonymity). Yes, she is a Catholic,” Ms. Machado said.
As someone who is a professional signer, the young woman will be paid $60 a month, or for one Mass. Since she also will be signing the 10 a.m. Easter Mass – that will be an extra $60.
Father Adam said it was a small price to pay to be able to offer this service to the people of God who have a significant hearing impairment; and the parish needs to be a welcoming and inclusive community.
“This parish is extremely welcoming and invites everyone to join, including the deaf and hard of hearing,” said Ms. Machado. She said she can picture people coming from around the Diocese for the Mass where signing is offered.