Fr. Walter Rydzon signs the mass as Bishop Zubik celebrates at St. Justin Church.
Since our whole family has been enjoying learning ASL signs, and we’re Catholic, we thought attending a bilingual ASL/English mass would be an interesting and edifying experience. It took us a while, but we finally got around to doing it last week. It was an interesting and generally positive experience.
[Many of my observations are conspicuously Catholic, and would likely fit better on my faith blog, but I didn't want to break my write-up into two posts. Deal. ;P]
The deaf communities masses are celebrated at St. Justin, a church in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Getting there was interesting, thanks to the steep hills, narrow roads (some cobblestone), and tight turns. Parking was mildly challenging as well. If masses there had greater attendance, I can’t imagine where everyone would park. I don’t think there were more than about 30 people in the congregation, most of whom seemed to come from a nearby old folks’ home, so on-street parking was adequate.
The low attendance was the first thing I noticed about mass at St. Justin. Indeed, the congregation wasn’t only sparse, but it was predominantly elderly. Sadly, I’m somewhat accustomed to seeing greying congregations, but I was surprised by the number of elderly deaf parishioners. I expected that a mass drawing people from Youngstown, Ohio and Johnstown would have demographics more similar to the region’s general population. Granted, Allegheny and surrounding counties give Florida a run for its money in terms of senior citizen numbers. However, I really thought there’d be more young people. Where do all the city’s deaf children, adolescents, and young adults go to mass if not St. Justin?
It’s always sad to see a parish in decline, but seeing such a special community and ministry in peril seemed particularly tragic. There was more that caught my notice, though, so I’ll move on.
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