He is also bilingual and as a permanent deacon will be able to reach out to serve other Catholics with auditory disabilities in Los Angeles.
“I was born with a hearing loss and progressively began losing more at a rapid pace,” he told CNA. “By the time I reached school age, I was profoundly deaf.”
While his family grieved when they learned of his disability, Deacon Garcia believes it brought them all closer to God.
At eight years old, Deacon Garcia attended Bible study classes with his grandmother.
“I always thought she was also taking me because she wanted me to recover from my hearing loss,” he said.
“Eventually, I realized she saw that I had the call.”
That call was fulfilled in June, when Archbishop José H. Gomez ordained Garcia and 12 other men to the deaconate.
“The deacon is service sacramentalized,” said Dr. William J, Shaules, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ associate coordinator for diaconate formation.
“Deacon Garcia and his wife have heightened our awareness of service to the deaf community. Not only what it means, but what it actually looks like.”
Deacon Garcia interprets the liturgy in American Sign Language, Spanish, and English for parishioners. Before his ordination, he interpreted for priests during workshops, blessings, and retreats.
Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf works to serve the needs of those with auditory disabilities. Latinos make up 95 percent of its parishioners. Most of these families are monolingual speakers of Spanish.
The parish is one of the few places Spanish-speaking parents and their deaf children can go to Mass together and all understand the liturgy.
(Story continues below)
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“There’s a great need for the deaf faithful to experience the Sacraments in their own language,” Deacon Garcia said.
He recalled going to a youth retreat at the parish when he was in high school. Before attending, he could only follow the liturgy by reading the Roman Missal. When he saw two priests at the retreat sign with American Sign Language, he said, “I could laugh and cry, and truly feel as I belong to this community we call the Body of Christ.”
Though a parish may have a sign language interpreter during the Mass, Deacon Garcia said, “at Holy Angels Catholic Church of the Deaf, everyone signs.”
“The deaf feel at home and they can form loving, lasting relationships with members of their community through a common language.”
In 2005, Deacon Garcia received his first cochlear implant and in 2010, his second. He made it a point, “to participate in the Spanish track and to try to do so without an interpreter.”
Eventually, Deacon Garcia learned to participate in a Spanish program and not rely on an interpreter. He is now able to help parishioners feel more comfortable receiving some of the sacraments in American Sign Language or Spanish.