By Katie Beckmann, Communications Manager
This week's "Embracing Faith" article, will focus on Embracing Faith through Ministry.
Interpreter, Preacher, Friend, and Advocate.
Those are only just a few of the titles that Sister BarbaraAnn Sgro, OP has had throughout her ten-year ministry as the Coordinator of Pastoral and Deaf Services for the Hudson Valley Catholic Deaf Center (HVCDC).
Sister BarbaraAnn shared, “In my ministry, I have been a voice for the Deaf Community and help to open up people’s eyes that there are Deaf Catholics that do need services that are different from the traditional way of the church, and they need our support and understanding.”
HVCDC provides Catholic Pastoral Ministry services for the Deaf Community in the northern counties of the Archdiocese of New York. The mission of HVCDC is to support the faith life of Deaf/Hard of hearing persons who use sign language as their primary means of communication by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Spiritual, Social, and Catechetical programs.
“Sign language is most likely the first language for a deaf person who is culturally Deaf and grew up deaf. American Sign Language is very different from English. My ministry gives them access and a way to have a role and voice in the church, as well as sacramental life.”
In her ministry, Sister BarbaraAnn has interpreted many regular Masses, Holy Day Masses, Sacramental Liturgies, as well as wake services and funerals in sign language. She also provides Religious Education for Children, and Adult Faith Formation opportunities for the Deaf community, such as Bible Study, individualized RCIA, yearly Advent retreats with Deaf presenters, Lenten Soup Supper, and Christian Seder supper.
Outside of Mass and church activities, Sister BarbaraAnn supports building community through social events and serves individuals in understanding correspondences from Health Insurance companies, Social Services, SNAP and other forms. She also networks with other local agencies for shared clients and services, as well as advocates for individuals with community providers, nursing home staff, etc.
Sister BarbaraAnn has even accompanied individuals to the emergency room and other medical appointments, not as an interpreter, but as a listening ear and support throughout a difficult time.
Throughout the years, Sister BarbaraAnn has experienced a significant change in the Deaf Culture and community.
“The younger generation doesn’t have the same ownership of the Deaf Culture as adults do. It’s different. When there used to be a need for interaction in the past, it can now be replaced by technology.”
Sister BarbaraAnn also spoke of a challenge that she has faced through her ministry.
“Many people who are deaf hadn’t had a good experience when they were younger with the Church. So now, they don’t come to church, and it’s hard to find them. We know they are out there, but they are sometimes leery of coming back to the church. We welcome everyone to join us and participate in outreach, as well as promote Deaf Awareness.”
To promote Deaf Awareness and outreach for HVCDC, Sister BarbaraAnn networks with families of religious educations students and the Parish Religious Education Program staff. She also supports student IEP’s with religious formation activities.
Sister BarbaraAnn’s ministry resonates closely to the mission of her congregation, the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York and their commitment to bringing hope and mercy to all in need through programs and advocacy.
“We are committed to people who aren’t always served the best in the traditional ways and need support to advocate for themselves in certain respects. I feel that my role is to help them claim their rightful place in the Church by helping them to have access by giving them an opportunity to participate through sign language and many of these people did not have that chance when they were younger. My ministry is an advocacy role for people.”