"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.
"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.
The parish also streams the Liturgy of the Word online, to accommodate people in the archdiocese and around the nation.
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Pope Francis drew attention to persons with disabilities at the Vatican's Jubilee for the Sick and Disabled, held June 9-12.
"People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity," the Pope tweeted for the occasion.
Deacon Garcia said the Pope's jubilee was "a powerful testament to remind ourselves of the need to reach out and 'encounter' those on the margin of society, or even, at the margin of our parishes."
He explained that many of those who are deaf have not seen God's mercy and grace made visible; many struggle with their deaf identity; and many experience discrimination in all forms.
"These people," he said, "need to be comforted, healed and strengthened by the Eucharist…something that can happen if people reach out to them and invite them into the Father's home."
This article was originally published on CNA June 19, 2016.