(Photo courtesy Father Ghislain Cheret Bazikila)
A nun at a village parish in the Congo is pictured with 17-year-old Maria, a deaf parishioner.
Disabled Catholics in Congo underserved by untrained clergy, says priest
April 1st, 2014
By Christina Gray
Deaf, blind and disabled Catholics in the Congo are underserved by untrained clergy in its 10 dioceses, according to a deaf priest from San Francisco who returned to his Congolese homeland for a visit in March.
Father Ghislain Cheret Bazikila, a San Francisco archdiocesan priest who has led an American Sign Language ministry at St. Benedict Parish at St. Francis Xavier Church for the Deaf and has just begun a new assignment to serve deaf Catholics in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, La., wrote a letter to Catholic San Francisco describing his trip back to the Congo where he was raised and ordained in 2008. Though the trip was a personal one, he spent time with the archbishop of Brazzaville, the largest city in the Congo, to discuss their mutual interest in educating clergy to better minister to the deaf and disabled people of Brazzaville.
The Church of the Resurrection is the only deaf parish in Brazzaville, which has a population of almost 2 million.
“Archbishop Anatole Milandou is encouraging priests to specialize in pastoral ministry to the deaf and disabled,” said Father Bazikila, who was born in a village outside Brazzaville and had to travel to the Church of the Resurrection to learn ASL and get involved with the deaf community.
The archbishop told Father Bazikila, who moved away from the Congo to work in deaf ministry, that be believes that the young priests he assigns to deaf ministry in parishes lose interest after a few years because they receive no training.
“Priest and nuns may become easily frustrated trying to catechize those with special needs without training of knowledge,” he said
Father Bazikila said during his visit he was also invited by the priests and nuns of four small village parishes, including his home parish of St. Joseph, to visit with their deaf community. None have any training to work with the deaf.
“The nuns are very interested in the deaf youth of the area,” he said. “They are eager to help them become more independent.”
Archbishop Milandou would also like nuns to learn to minister to the deaf or people with other disabilities.
According to Father Bazikila, the archbishop hopes to develop a Catholic Center of Information and Culture to include resources for both clergy and family members dealing with deaf and disabled members. This may include book or video training in ASL and interpretation, training in the care of people in wheelchairs, and training in working with the blind and disabled people.
“Any donations of computers, laptops, video projectors as well as ASL books and DVDs would be appreciated,” Father Bazikila said.
For more information, contact Father Bazikila at email@example.com.
From April 4, 2014 issue of Catholic San Francisco.