Father Min Seo Park, one of fewer than two dozen deaf priests worldwide, thinks deafness is hardly a disability, the Catholic Herald reports. He is working to help others realize that as well.
As the new chaplain of St. Francis of Assisi Deaf Catholic Church in Landover Hills, Md., Father Park is hoping to convey the idea that deafness be treated as a culture.
Father Park, 52, has three ministries. In addition to serving St. Francis of Assisi, he also is the chaplain to the Catholic community at Gallaudet University, and he provides pastoral ministry to the Archdiocese of Washington’s deaf population overall.
Deaf since a childhood illness, he is fluent in four languages: Korean Sign Language and American Sign Language, or ASL, as well as written Korean and English.
He completed his master of divinity degree in 2004 at St. John’s Seminary in New York and returned to Seoul. There, he was ordained to the priesthood in 2007. He said that as he celebrated his first signed Mass, he saw a congregation of joyful people.
“Some deaf people, who were poor at Korean writing and could not communicate with non-signing hearing priests, had not confessed to priests for many years, like 20 years,” he said. “They felt confident and comfortable to confess to me in sign language. I was happy that I forgave their sins through the sacrament of confession.
“Deaf people witnessed my priesthood ordination and realized that deaf people were children of God as well. They felt joyful and happy to listen to the word of God, the Gospel from me, a deaf priest,” he said.