by Susan Fotovich McCabe
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If a picture is worth a thousand words, how valuable must a multimedia version of a valuable Catholic resource be to the deaf and hard of hearing community?
This resource – the Youth Catechism (YouCat) – is now available as videos, translated into American Sign Language (ASL), to Catholics around the world.
The new resource is due, in part, to the leadership of Katie Locus, the Archdiocese of Kansas City’s consultant in the Kansas Deaf Ministry.
This exciting new development has been a long time coming for the deaf community, according to Locus. After more than a year of planning, the ASL version of YouCat has since released 63 videos that translate 132 questions into sign language. All are accessible on YouTube, Facebook and online at: www.archkcks.com/home/asl-youcat.
“This is the first time that a catechism has been translated into the mother tongue of a deaf person,” said Locus. “ASL is the natural language of deaf people and English is often considered their second language.
“Reading Sunday school can be very intimidating for anyone, but especially for people who might have difficulty with English,” she said. “The church has translated documents and resources into many languages, but never to ASL. The YouCat project is finally making catechism accessible to the deaf. Now deaf people can learn not only what we believe as Catholics, but also why we believe what we do.
Along with 395 more questions to translate, Locus said the videos also feature spoken English and subtitles. This allows hearing parents and family members to watch the video with their deaf or hard of hearing child and everyone can learn together.
Each video follows a question-and-answer format from the YouCat book, including the extract from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and its development and application. Locus said the development of the CCC may be different from the development of the book itself, in order to address Deaf culture and better relate to Deaf viewers. To date, it has gained nearly 14,000 views on YouTube and other social media.
The idea of translating was born with Locus’ predecessor, Pat Richey, and his colleague Joan Macy. However, it seemed overwhelming at the time. Several years ago, Locus revisited the idea at the request of visiting missionary Katherine Resendez. With the support and encouragement of Father Scott Wallisch, chaplain for the ministry of the deaf, the idea moved forward.
The project also received support from Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the YouCat Foundation via Ignatius Press. The National Catholic Office for the Deaf (NCOD) and Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) provided financial support to start the project.
A team of people from across the United States now watch the question and answer shoot for each video.
“The process of preparing the videos is long, but we are committed to being specific and to receiving episcopal approval before anything is released,” Locus said. “First, the material has to be translated from English to ASL, and then a shooting date is set for the production. Two priests who are fluent in English and ASL review each script and video to ensure the accuracy of the ASL translation and Catholic theology.
“Once verified, Archbishop Naumann gives his approval for it to be displayed. If at any stage of the process we find the slightest possibility of confusing the lay faithful through the type of information being shared or the manner in which the information is shared via ASL, transcript and / or video are corrected and redone.
Roberta Westerman of St. Paul’s Parish in Olathe is born deaf. With the availability of ASL YouCat, she said she felt “more inspired and enthusiastic” about her faith. She also supplements her Catholic faith with a Bible study led by Father Wallisch.
Likewise, Tammy and Matt Gwynn, also from St. Paul’s Parish, feel renewed by the availability of ASL YouCat. Both are deaf and are raising hearing children.
“In the scriptures, Jesus sent 12 disciples in pairs out into the world and told them to bring only one cane and the clothes on their backs. Matt is my pair and these YouCat videos are like my cane, ”Tammy said. “It takes us further than we could have gone before.”
“All of my friends love to watch the music videos,” she added, “seeing and understanding the teachings of the church in a way they’ve never experienced before. Evangelizing alone is difficult, but you can share any of the YouCat videos with anyone who wants to watch them and help them understand the faith better.
To date, Locus has received positive feedback not only from the deaf community in the Archdiocese, but from across the United States about what they call “a game changer.”
Locus, who was born deaf from a virus she contracted in utero, said having this resource would have been invaluable in her youth.
“I think if this had been available earlier in my life these videos would have helped me deal with difficult situations where I had to explain my faith to people who thought Catholic teachings were oppressive or discriminatory,” he said. declared Locus. “There have been many situations where I wasn’t sure exactly how to explain why the Catholic Church was teaching what it was doing on certain controversial topics.
“As a result, I always found myself in hostile situations without having all the information I needed to defend my faith and the church. Even if the videos had been available at the time and I still wasn’t able to clear up all the misunderstandings, I would have felt more confident in my faith and in my responses.
The ASL YouCat project is now looking for volunteers to promote the resource. Locus asks individuals to repost the videos on their personal social networks and to discuss them with their friends. The project also welcomes financial donations to cover production costs. Donations can be sent to: Office of Deaf Ministry at 21650 W. 115th Terr., Olathe, KS 66213.
“I might not know exactly who needs to see these videos or exactly what fruits will come from them, but I do know that God is using this project to reach all kinds of people – deaf or hearing, Catholic or non-Catholic,” said Locus.