Corpus Christi, Texas, Feb 21, 2009 (CNA) - When Father Tom Coughlin began seriously considering a priestly vocation in high school, little did he realize how long and winding the road would be to becoming the first deaf priest ordained in the United States.
Fr. Tom began applying to various seminaries after he graduated from high school, but was turned down from one after the other due to the fact that he is deaf. Instead, he went on to study and graduate from Gallaudet University in 1972 with a BA in English and then in 1976 obtained his MA in Religious Studies from Catholic University. He entered the Trinitarians in 1972 and was finally ordained by Cardinal Lawrence Sheehan of Baltimore in 1977.
He met with so much opposition before and after ordination that he almost quit, explained Fr. Tom to Sr. Lou Ella Hickman of the South Texas Catholic Newspaper. “Most people were not prepared to welcome a deaf person. I was all alone, but the vocation director Father Joseph Lupo told me ‘You have to open the door. You have to suffer so others won’t.’ And I saw his point. Following Christ you have to make sacrifices. One has to enter the mystery of suffering in order to pray better. Mary, Joseph, the apostles all suffered but they understood the meaning of God’s love.”
Fr. Tom also received support from Cardinal Pio Laghi, former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States, also gave his support to Fr. Tom’s effort to start a community that would minister to the deaf.
Years later, Cardinal O’Connor of New York invited Fr. Tom to set up a House of Studies for deaf seminarians in Yonkers, New York which was later transferred to the Archdiocese of San Francisco upon the death of Cardinal O’Conner.
Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Oakland Diocese erected Fr. Tom’s deaf community to the status of Private Association of the Faithful – one of the first steps in the creation of a creation of a religious institute. As result, the community moved from San Francisco to Oakland. Then, in 2007, the community moved from California to San Antonio, Texas as the cost of living there was too high.
Now that the community has moved to San Antonio, Fr. Tom explains, “The vocations are coming to us.” That translates to nine members. One is in theology and hopefully will be ordained in about two years. There are three novices, one postulant, two are in philosophy and one is earning a master’s in Spanish. As all of the prayers and formation is done in sign language, if someone is interested he would have to proficient in signing in order to join.
Fr. Tom is currently in contact with ten men who are interested in joining the community.
At present, the down side to this community is that they depend one hundred percent on donations, however, Fr. Tom is also very interested in admitting more men so that the deaf in other cities such as Chicago and New York can benefit from their charism, the special God-given gift that the community lives out. And for Fr. Tom, that is best part of his ministry. He described it simply, “The Word became Flesh. In sign language God’s word is more clear’ not just verbal but made flesh. This is our charism.”
Litany in Honor of St. Francis de Sales, Patron of the Deaf:
For the Church, that we may become more aware of the great giftedness of those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.
For the Church, that we may like Christ, reach out and empower those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.
For each local Church, that we may respond with care and respect to the needs of those with disabilities, — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.
For an increase of religious vocations to and by those with disabilities. — St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.
To learn more about Fr. Tom’s community, visit: www.Dominicanmissionaries.org.
Printed with permission from the South Texas Catholic Newspaper, from the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Konigstein, Germany, Feb 21, 2009 (CNA) - Saying Pope Benedict XVI has been “unjustly attacked,” the head of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has called for this Sunday, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, to be a day of fervent prayer for the Holy Father.
“Pope Benedict XVI has been unjustly attacked. There has been a resurgence of the unsavoury and aggressive attitudes that many thought belonged to the past,” Fr. Joaquín Alliende, International President of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said on Friday.
Referring to “serious errors” in “certain bodies within the Holy See,”Fr. Alliende’s statement claimed “these acknowledged mistakes have been seized upon to launch an astonishing avalanche of attacks.”
“The dignity of the papacy and the person of Benedict XVI himself have been crudely insulted. Many people have manipulated the facts, while others have frivolously abandoned the important fundamentals of our humanist tradition.
“This unworthy dealing with the truth does grave damage to the dialogue between civil society and the great religions. It is a sign of cultural degeneration.”
Fr. Alliende warned that “old sectarian emotions” are being revived and that there has been an attempt to undermine “an irreprochable moral figure, one of the great beacons of hope for coming generations.”
Despite these “strident attacks,” Fr. Alliende said Pope Benedict’s personality “emerges untouched” as a figure who “incarnates rationality, lucid wisdom and courteous kindness.”
Fr. Alliende invited “all those who believe in a God of truth and love to join us in a day of special prayer.”
“Let us pray that the Holy Spirit may enlighten and strengthen Pope Benedict XVI as a prophetic witness of the Gospel of Jesus and a guide for a humanity that longs for peace.”
Oakland, Calif., Feb 21, 2009 (CNA) -A Baptist pastor from Berkeley, California has been fined and sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating Oakland’s “bubble law” which restricts pro-life counselors from approaching women who are entering abortion clinics.
In addition to the 30-day sentence delivered on Thursday, Alameda Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing placed Rev. Walter Hoye on probation for three years and fined him $1,130, the California Catholic Daily reports.
The pastor had rejected a plea bargain offered by the district attorney before trial, guaranteeing no jail time in exchange for a guilty plea to one count.
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman criticized the decision, saying "This is an unjust sentence for an unjust conviction that cannot be allowed to stand.
"We stand behind Rev. Hoye one hundred percent and pray for his speedy exoneration on appeal.
“Every American should be alarmed by Rev. Hoye's conviction and this unconstitutional ordinance.”
Rev. Hoye had initially been charged with violating four counts of the “bubble law”: two counts of “unlawful approach” and two counts of using “force, threat of force or physical obstruction” against escorts at the Family Planning Specialists Clinic in Oakland.
The pastor has regularly stationed himself near the clinic and has no prior criminal record.
The charges concerned two separate incidents on April 29, 2008 and May 13, 2008, respectively.
In the May 13 incident, Rev. Hoye was arrested after a clinic staff member called police. He had been attempting to hand out pro-life literature and was carrying a 40-inch sign that read “Jesus Loves You & Your Baby. Let Us Help You.”
Before the trial Judge Hing dismissed one count of using “force, threat of force or physical obstruction,” while the jury found Hoye not guilty on the other count. The jury returned guilty verdicts on the two counts of “unlawful approach.”
Prior to his arrest, Rev. Hoye, an outspoken opponent of the “bubble law,” had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
Concerning his sentence, he questioned whether the jury had been given an adequate definition of what constituted an “approach.”
Video evidence presented by the defense showed that clinic employees approached Howe, the California Catholic Daily says.
Katie Short, an attorney with Life Legal Defense Foundation which represented Rev. Hoye, also questioned the sentence.
“The ordinance prohibits approaching within eight feet of someone entering an abortion clinic, without their consent, for the purpose of... let’s call it ‘communication’,” Short told the California Catholic Daily. “The clinic director and escorts took this to mean that Walter could not approach them without their consent, even though they were not entering the facility and he was not trying to communicate with them.”
Mike Millen, another defense attorney, said the sentencing threat was “potent” but added, “My client is more interested in getting the truth out, both on the sidewalk and in the courtroom.”
Before the sentencing, Attorneys for the Life Legal Defense Foundation asked Judge Hing to grant a motion for a new trial, arguing that the jurors had not been adequately instructed and violated Rev. Hoye’s right to due process. Judge Hing denied the motion.
The judge said Rev. Hoye could serve his sentence “by alternative means.”
Defense attorney Dana Cody said Rev. Hoye has the right to challenge an “onerous condition” of his probation requiring that he stay away from the clinic, arguing this restriction was a violation of his right to free speech.
A hearing next month will consider the probation sentence.