The Deaf Catholic Archives: An Opportunity to be Open

Caroline Muniz ‘23

Features Editor

Dinand has opened a new exhibit for the 2023 spring semester titled, Be Opened: The Deaf Catholic Archives. Students can have the opportunity to learn more about the different ways in which the Catholic faith could be practiced by deaf individuals through a collection of meaningful pieces and information on the subject.  The DCA has been utilized around the world for various research as well as by the Deaf Studies Programs at Holy Cross. It is an invaluable resource that teaches us about the important histories and stories of the Deaf community. 

The first piece of the exhibit describes the mission of the Deaf Catholic Archives and the insight that is provided by the organization. It began in the 1970s to describe the various ways in which deaf individuals were able to practice catholicism by breaking away from traditional methods of practice. The organization was founded by Rev. Joseph Bruce, S.J, who also curated the exhibit. The Holy Cross alum was the only deaf student during his time at Holy Cross, which was also a point in history where there were very few accommodations put in place to support deaf individuals. The exhibit features some of Bruce’s favorite items that also represents the collection as a whole, which would not have been possible without him. 

The exhibit then further tells the story of Catholicism within the Deaf community by describing the origins of the collection and the ways in which it was able to grow and further develop on campus. It also explains the story of the first materials and the acquisition of them. 

Various items were particularly selected to be featured in this exhibit. The first piece of material includes images of early sign language books. It includes type writing of an Appendix of Catholic Signs. The same book also shows the ways in which one can sign a particular prayer. A pamphlet of the first lessons of Holy communion for deaf catholics is also featured in the exhibit. It includes proper instructions that were utilized to teach people the ways in which one can make the appropriate sign. There is also a historic newspaper article that was titled, The Open Door to the Deaf Mutes from “The Times Magazine.”

This invaluable collection will act as an important part of history and highlights the ways in which the Deaf community has made a great positive impact on the study of Catholicism.

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