Friday, July 14, 2017

Deaf Row


A few weeks ago we did a quick trip up north to the land I always refer to as the frozen tundra, a.k.a. Minnesota. Some friends of ours were house sitting for one of their kids and were looking for some company. They even offered us beds for the night so to repay them for their kindness, we took them to the basilica in town.

This was my first trip to the basilica as well and being new to it, we wanted to grab some seats up front to really soak in the view during mass. Having gone to church most of my life and generally sitting in the same pew week after week, I couldn't help but wonder who we had displaced with our seats. There were lots of people ogling us as we were definitely strangers but I never got a sense that any of them had been displaced so I never found the answer to that question.

Because we didn't know traffic patterns, location or even the parking situation, we got to the church almost forty minutes early and had our choice of seats. We could have sat in the front row had we wanted but come on, who sits in the front row?! Instead, we sat in a pew that was politely behind the first two front rows in case anyone who needs to sit up front could. Soon, those people would fill up both those two rows in front of us.

Let me take a step back to say that living out in rural America, I don't often see people with certain disabilities. I think it is mostly because the distances involved are just two much for people with disabilities that want to remain independent. I was probably 30 years old before I saw my first totally deaf couple sitting and watching our local fireworks show and signing to each other. That was also my last time until we attended mass at the basilica.

For you see, the front two rows were eventually filled by a few dozen deaf people and in front of them was a sign language interpreter who kept them informed during the mass. I found that I was fascinated by watching them excitedly converse with one another without making a single sound. Hands were flying everywhere at a fast clip! I even saw them "ask" questions to the interpreter who would "answer" back in a flurry of gestures. It was quite the experience and not the one I was expecting when we decided to attend mass at the basilica.

13 comments:

sage said...

It is interesting to watch sign language and kudos for them for making it available. Beautiful sanctuary.

Bob said...

In a former church in which I was a member, there was a section for the hearing impaired similar to what you have described here. I loved watching them during the songs. It was beautiful to watch them worship.

Ed said...

Sage - It was a beautiful basilica. They had obviously put a lot of money into its upkeep.

Bob - I found it interesting during the songs as well since they obviously couldn't hear them and nobody was really doing anything in front of them. The interpreter would make a sign now and then that I interpreted as songs coming down from heaven.

Ed said...

Bob - I should mention that on that particular day, there was a flutist doing solos for all the songs so there were no words to sign.

Kelly said...

What a beautiful building! I have a weakness for church architecture (as well as castles).

I had to laugh about your worry of displacing someone from their regular pew. We have two Sunday morning services at our church and I worry those rare, rare times I attend the other service for that same reason! (and how silly, when you really think about it)

I use to work with a woman who was deaf and, while she could communicate vocally with us (it was really difficult to understand if you weren't use to it), she always signed with those who could.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

Like, Kelly, I enjoy visiting churches (inside and out) and find them/their architecture interesting and usually very beautiful. This one is quite pretty - may I ask where in Minnesota it is? Is it old?
Very interesting point about the lack of those with certain disabilities in your area due to it being farther from needed services. Sign language interpretation is pretty much the norm here. Since I was a kid in elementary school we had deaf/hard-of-hearing kids integrated in the classroom with either interpreters or specialized equipment (microphones/speakers/earpieces) and I've even had them in my own classroom. Even shows - theaters, concerts, conversations, etc - usually have interpreters. It's always fun to watch them at concerts or musical events because they get really into the music as well.
It made me chuckle at the thought of them being able to talk and ask questions during the service. I always got shushed for that! :)

Vince said...

This is St Mary's, yes ?. I kinda prefer the other one.

Leigh said...

Beautiful church! When my son was in high school he loved to play chess. We homeschooled so it was sometimes hard to find practice partners. I finally found a chess club at the school for the deaf in the next time over. They welcomed him and he was a member for quite awhile. Too bad we didn't pick up more sign, however.

Ed said...

Pumpkin Delight - It was St. Marys in Minneapolis.

Vince - The only Basilica in Minnesota is St. Marys. I'm assuming the other one you are referring to is the Cathedral in St. Paul. We've been there a couple times over the years and it is definitely quite beautiful as well.

Leigh - My daughter has picked up some sign she has learned somewhere alone the way. It is fascinating to watch.

Kelly said...

You were only a stone's throw from where my son and his girl live!

Vince said...

Yeah I know. But this is the co-cathedral of St Pauls and Minn. I've been hearing about these for most of my life, one way or another. John Ireland was born about 5 miles away.

Ed said...

Kelly - If someone threw a stone at them, it wasn't me! It's a nice area but just not my cup of tea other than the occasional visit. I like the slower life out here in the sticks!

Vince - I have no idea who John Ireland is so I'm off to Wikipedia to find out.

Kelly said...

They live in that apartment high-rise near the convention center and next to the Hyatt. They love it, but I'm with you... I prefer a slower life.