Churches address hearing issues of members


If you can’t hear or understand what’s being said at a religious service, there’s little chance you’ll reap any benefit from the messages in Scripture and the pulpit.

Attention is being paid to members who are hearing impaired and deaf in certain churches.

The Rev. Terrence J. Hazel, pastor of St. Michael Church in Canfield, heads the Youngstown Diocese Deaf Association. He admitted a “slump” in what the association provides but hopes to change that.

In the diocese, two churches offer Masses with sign language interpreters. They are the noon Mass Sundays at St. Robert Bellarmine in Cortland and the recently started effort at St. William Church in Champion at 11 a.m. Sundays.

The Rev. Michael Balash, pastor at St. William, said a deaf couple are members. They attend regularly, the priest said, and the church wanted to provide a sign- language interpreter. “We felt obliged to provide something that would help people be included,” he said. “We wanted to help the deaf in the community.”

Father Hazel said he and Monsignor Robert Siffrin, vicar general and moderator of the curia, both know sign language and are able to sign for themselves. But, both Father Hazel and Monsignor Siffrin have full-time assignments in the diocese.

Father Hazel said he is hoping to offer a signed Mass at St. Michael and said it is a goal in 2013.

An item in “The Faithline,” the newsletter of First Presbyterian Church in East Palestine, asks the question, “Having trouble hearing? Ask about an assisted listening headset. We don’t want you to miss a thing.”

Deanne Bowers, secretary and member at church, said a few observant members heard comments from some other members about not being able to hear what was being said during the service. “If you can’t hear, it’s hard to participate,” Bowers said. “We didn’t want to lose people because of that.”

About two years ago, the church bought nine headsets with different ear pieces. The wireless listening devices amplify what’s being said and work with the wearer’s hearing aid. “It’s been helpful to members,” Bowers said, noting some have put their names on certain sets that work well for them.

The church bought the devices with money in the memorial fund. A church members monitors the devices for maintenance.

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