It all started when, in 1918, Mother Mary Columbiere of the Loretto Sisters asked Archbishop Neil McNeil for spiritual guidance for a newly engaged couple, where one of the betrothed happened to be deaf. Mother Columbiere was subsequently put in charge of the Religious Services for the Catholic Deaf, and with the assistance the Paulist Fathers of St. Peter’s Church, ensured there was weekly mass at the Loretto Abbey for the deaf.
While trying to find records that document the Deaf Ministry's spiritual and social services in Toronto, I uncovered records that demonstrate St. Francis de Sales Deaf Society's role in forming the International Catholic Deaf Association.
Meetings of the St. Francis de Sales Deaf Society of Toronto had become so well attended that it sponsored the creation of the Ontario Catholic Deaf Association. While the two operated separately, members of the St. Francis de Sales Society were active in the O.C.D.A.
By 1948, interest in O.C.D.A. events spread to American cities, and leaders of the O.C.D.A. proposed to have an International Catholic Deaf Conference. Plans for a conference were finalized with the blessing of Cardinal McGuigan for July of 1949. A resolution to establish the International Catholic Deaf Association was passed in 1951, and St. Francis de Sales Deaf Society was named Chapter No. 1. Another nod to Toronto was the naming of Cardinal McGuigan as Honorary Patron of the I.C.D.A., in recognition of all his work that made the I.C.D.A. possible
|The First International Catholic Deaf Congress was hosted by the O.C.D.A. at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel.
ARCAT Parish Collection,/Deaf Ministry/Publications
The historic first conference, and Toronto's importance in the founding of the I.C.D.A., is emphasized in the Association's amazing ten year anniversary publication. "The Birth of the I.C.D.A. and its Progress", created by Colette Gabel and published by the members of the International Catholic Deaf Association was put together entirely by deaf people. As it describes in its post script, "The English text may seem odd to you in some places...to keep intact as far as possible, the native charm of the deaf idiom"
The International Catholic Deaf Association still exists, with each country now holding their own annual national conference. Toronto is hosting Canada's National Conference this year from August 22 to August 26, 2018.
Visit the Archdiocese of Toronto's website to learn more about the history of St. Francis de Sales Deaf Community and its current ministry.