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Apostolate to the Deaf

Ministering to the deaf and hearing impaired

They let their fingers do the talking at Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Philadelphia, where Father Anthony Russo celebrates Mass for the deaf and hearing impaired one Sunday a month, as well as one Sunday a month at suburban St. Charles Parish. The altar servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and ushers are deaf — it is the hearing worshippers who require interpreters.

After Mass, the community socializes over coffee and snacks; they network, plan holiday parties, fundraisers, and banquets. Father Tony also coordinates a team to serve the deaf community in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Father Tony continues a tradition of serving hearing impaired and deaf Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — a ministry begun by his Redemptorist confreres in the 1940s.

It all began when as a Redemptorist seminarian at Mt. St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY, Father Steven Landherr became fascinated with sign language from a book, at a time when few such books were available. Father Dan Higgins, a Redemptorist missionary in the Midwest who lived out of a suitcase, prepared that book, which included 1,000 photographs illustrating sign language. This book led Father Landherr to Philadelphia; the archdiocese had opened a school for the deaf there, but it lacked full-time clergy. Father Landherr was a pioneer in his efforts to preach missions to the deaf and to encourage other dioceses to reach out to a group of people who had been isolated.

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