By Ron Kolodziej
I am from St. Anthony Parish in Florence. I was volunteering as interpreter of sign language and religious education instructor when St. Mary Church on Yonges Island advertised for someone to teach a young deaf girl about God and Mass, and prepare her for Holy Communion. Msgr. Thomas Duffy, my pastor at that time, applauded my decision to travel two weekends every month to St. Mary to teach this young girl. “At least I know where you are on Sundays!” he said.
My first contact with Father Kinney, St. Mary’s pastor, was at a meeting with the DRE and all the team teachers of religious education on the feast day of the Assumption. Father Kinney made sure I was invited to a pizza house afterward because he wanted to learn sign language in order to communicate with Cathy. I spent two hours that afternoon fulfilling his wish to learn the hand language for “peace,” “the Body of Christ,” and “the Blood of Christ.” Father Kinney took immense delight as a representative of Jesus in bringing a touching, personal message of Jesus’ love.
Father Kinney saw the need for continuing education to prepare Cathy for Confirmation. He arranged for my travel expenses to St. Mary to be paid.
Father Kinney listened to my suggestions, and got the required materials needed in sign language. He crossed over that “cultural barrier” and put together a budget to enable Cathy to become a member of the congregation.
There were challenges:
The need for me to enrich my educational style, and to evangelize in native hand language. Father Bill paved the way to connect me with the Office of Social Ministry to attend pastoral worker training annually.
Confession. Since Cathy is not indoctrinated in the English language concept, or written format, there was a need for me to instruct Father Kinney that the NCCB had approved an interpreter to be present to hear the Confession. Father Kinney had homework to complete by contacting the chancery office, and a telephone call to Cardinal Bernard Law for clarification, and yes, a stamp of approval.
With the enlightenment from Cardinal Law on the presentation of the interpreted Mass, the Boston Archdiocese had a televised Mass with signing hands appearing in the upper left-hand portion of the television screen. One Sunday Father Kinney surprised me (and the congregation as well) by having me stand next to the ambo. Father Kinney announced, “In Boston, Cardinal Law has just the hands showing the signed Mass; here at St. Mary’s we have the entire person in the flesh!” The congregation had a hearty laugh. He delivered his punch lines with finesse.
I have been extremely blessed by this priest who took the time to fulfill the needs of his parish, especially the deaf. Father Kinney, in my opinion, truly understood Chapter 7 of St. Mark’s Gospel that tells of the moment Jesus touched and healed the deaf person with the true love of God. He enriched my spiritual life, deepened my faith to serve, and rewarded me by recognizing that we can fulfill our baptismal calling. Father Kinney, you are a servant of God. May peace be with you.
Ron Kolodziej is a parishioner at St. Anthony Church in Florence.