This past summer Holy Family Church in Artesia launched a new program to help accommodate the needs of an underserved segment of the Catholic community: deaf and hearing-impaired worshipers.

Beginning in July, a certified American Sign Language (AMSLAN) interpreter has been on hand at every 5 p.m. Saturday Mass to help those with limited hearing fully participate. 

Charlotte Dent, a long-time parishioner and volunteer at Holy Family, said the new program was partly inspired by the pastor Marian Missionary Father Raymond Decipeda. As a newly-ordained priest serving in the Philippines, he had the opportunity to work with a group of hearing-impaired individuals. The experience left a lasting impression on Father Decipeda, and encouraged him to learn some sign language himself.

After being approached by some parishioners about the possibility of offering a sign language Mass at Holy Family, the pastor made it his goal to make it a reality. AMSLAN interpreter Anthony Diaz was hired to head the sign language program, and at every 5 p.m. Saturday Mass the front pews are reserved for the deaf and hearing-impaired to ensure an unobstructed view of Diaz or another interpreter.

“The people are very happy to have a sign language Mass; it has been positively received,” said Dent. “Father Decipeda is happy that it is being offered. We are trying to be an all-inclusive community and respond to the needs of parishioners.”

Others from outside the parish who could benefit from this new sign language Mass are welcome to attend, she added. Holy Family Church is located at 18708 Clarkdale Ave., Artesia. Information: (562) 865-2185.