September 2022 Newsletter

A small group of women started Catholic Deaf and Hard of Hearing in WA to provide Catechism to the boys and girls at the old Deaf School in Mosman Park.  They worked with one of the Sisters of Mercy from the Convent in Broome Street Mosman Park.  The convent is just around the corner from the old Deaf School.  Fr Chris Reidy was the first Chaplain appointed in 1972.  Fr Reidy was followed by Fr Brian McKenna and then Fr Paul Pitzen in 1978. 

In 1982 Barbara Harris a Special Ed teacher was appointed to help Fr Paul as the Coordinator.  Geoff Scott taught Barbara Auslan and like a duck to water Barbara picked it up. Barbara a parishioner at St Denis’s in Joondanna later started translating Masses every week which continued until 2021. 

Fr Paul passed away in 2018 Barbara soldiered on until 2021 when she retired.  Joe O’Brien took on the role of Coordinator and as of yet a new Chaplain has not been appointed.

Barbara and Fr Paul fought hard for the disabled in the diocese during a period when society had a growing awareness of the needs of the disabled. 

Everyone is born in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27)  Fr Paul although hard of hearing himself would go out of his way to help the deaf including visiting prisons when necessary.  The Deaf were his flock and as a good shepherd he fought for the flock. In naming the new Centre he and many others built it called got the Emmanuel Centre.  Emmanuel translates to “God is with us.”

Fifty years after the first Chaplain was appointed Catholic Deaf are still going.  Still working to ensure the Deaf have access to the liturgy and resources to help them grow in their faith.  God loves all of us and over fifty years Catholic Deaf have been helping Deaf and Hard of Hearing find him.

 (by Joe O Brien)

Joe with Janina and Tony, two of our deaf community members.

Timeline of the Deaf Ministry

(from old letters we found in the archives)

1972: There was a meeting in NSW with representatives from all over Australia. WA representative was Ms. Beverley Wallace, a teacher of the deaf. Association of Catholic Deaf in WA was formed.

1973: Fr Chris Reidy was appointed first chaplain.

1975: WA Association for Catholic Deaf was run from the Convent of Mercy (13 Broome St, Mosman Park). There was monthly mass for the deaf, followed by social gathering over a cuppa. The Mass was held at different parishes each month, such as Shenton Park, Hilton, Dianella, etc. The front seats were reserved for the deaf so they could see the sign language interpreter (Ms. Wallace). Fr Brian McKenna was appointed by Bishop Quinn to be chaplain (Fr Chris Reidy was transferred to Kellerberrin).

1977: The Association’s president was Graham Pittaway, the secretary was Helen Pittaway. Family membership subscription of $2.00 is requested to cover the running cost of the Association. Fr McKenna and Sr Maria Mols were sent to Sydney in November to attend the National Catholic Deaf Association Conference.

1978: Fr Paul Pitzen was appointed chaplain (Fr McKenna was transferred to Kalgoorlie).

1981: Emmanuel Centre was born.

1994: The Archdiocese of Perth established the LifeLink organisation as a means of uniting and identifying ‘Church based welfare delivery’. These include Emmanuel Centre and Catholic Association for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired People of WA.

2022: 50th Anniversary of Catholic Deaf Ministry. Coordinator is Joe O’Brien. We have no chaplain since Fr. Paul’s passing in 2018.

Deaf Story: Tony Klimek

This is the story of one of the regular participants in our monthly Deaf Gathering, Antoni (Tony) Klimek. Tony was born in Poland in 1946 and has been living in Western Australia since 1965. He was declined in his application to migrate to Australia as a teenager due to deafness, the family had to wait two years for his visa to be finally approved, as his hearing mum and younger brother would not leave him behind to join his older brother who migrated here during World War II.

 His first job when he arrived in Australia was as a deckhand on his older brother’s crayboat, on the coast of WA, around Geraldton/ Dongara area. Interestingly, another one of our regular Deaf Night participants, Mark, was also a deckhand on a crayboat along the same coast. But at that time, these boats were manned by more or less family members, so Tony worked on a Polish boat and Mark on an Italian boat. There was friendly banter when we chatted about this recently, such as what to do about crayfish with eggs (kill vs throw back into the ocean) etc.

 Tony has worked in many different areas of employment since: broom-maker, fork lift and bobcat driver, self-employed building subcontractor, administrative and teaching posts with the WA Deaf Society, also executive and coaching posts in such diverse fields as weightlifting, basketball, badminton, chess, darts and continuing education for the Deaf.

 Tony is also a top notch sportsman. Most notably, he is a fine golfer. He started golf quite late at the age of 32. Only two years later he won his first State Deaf Championship and in the next seventeen years, won it 13 times and runner up on four occasions. He was team captain of the Australian Deaf Golf Association, President of the World Deaf Golf Federation, and represented Yokine Golf Club in Division one AGC Pennants. In other sports, he has also represented Australia in World Deaf Chess Championship in Hungary and in Scotland (as a player and team manager). Also, he broke all State Hearing Weightlifting records in 1967.

 In 1991, with interpreting support from WA Deaf Society, Tony did a special bridging course for the disabled at ECU, with the intention of continuing to do the Bachelor of Science for computing. He started his bachelor study for 4 units without interpreter. But he didn’t complete his degree due to a job opportunity.

 Tony clearly has not allowed his profound deafness to stop him living a full and distinguished life. He is married with one son, one grandson, and two granddaughters. He married his wife Helena in 1967 at St. Brigid’s Northbridge Parish and it’s so lovely to see them as a loving couple now, 55 years later!

Below are their photos on their wedding day and recently at one of our Monthly Deaf Gathering here at Emmanuel Centre. We congratulate Tony and Helena on their upcoming 55th Anniversary. May you and your loved ones continue to have abundant blessings!


Emmanuel Centre holds a deaf social gathering monthly on the last Friday night of the month. From the conversation, we gain snippets of stories on the challenges they face, made worse by COVID. Below are a couple of snippets:

Mask: You probably already heard about how wearing masks make it impossible for the deaf to read lips. One solution proposed to solve this is to use transparent masks. Unfortunately they are more difficult to find in the market and more expensive to buy. Another solution is to engage an Auslan interpreter so that the deaf don’t need to lipread. But even this is not a perfect solution when there are a group of people. By watching the interpreter, the deaf could know what is being said. But if everyone wears a mask, the deaf won’t be able to see whose mouth is moving, and therefore don’t know who’s speaking!

Auslan interpreter: With the availability of NDIS funding and also the popularity of Auslan interpreters who interpret for government press conferences, such as Fiona (WA) or Mike Webb (Qld), lots of people and organisations now would like to engage Auslan interpreter to allow the deaf to be included in events. This is a positive development for the deaf. However, demand surpasses supply and Auslan interpreters are generally booked out weeks in advance. And then if the interpreter gets COVID, they have to cancel last minute. Very frustrating for all involved. Lots of people are interested in being Auslan interpreters, and the government is helping this process by providing subsidy, but each of these candidate would have to take a journey of around 5 years including studying and then passing the NAATI test to be certified. So we will only reap the harvest in a few years time. In the meanwhile, Auslan interpreters are working very hard indeed, often into the night to cater for evening social events. They risk burnt out and we hope the next batch of interpreters would graduate soon and help them out.

So if you are a hearing person who would like to communicate with a deaf person, what are your options? You could try either of the following options:

1. You could learn Auslan.  The majority of the signs in Auslan are closely linked with the meaning, for example the sign for swimming is your hands making breaststroke movement. This makes it fairly easy for relatives and friends of the deaf to learn sufficient signs to be able to carry on a simple conversation with the deaf. There are online courses available to start you off an your learning journey if you are interested in this.

2. For more complex communication, you could engage an Auslan interpreter, bearing in mind as stated above that they are very busy at the moment, so you need to book early.

3. You could write down what you want to say. However, please be aware that for many deaf people, their first language is Auslan. They learn English as a second language, and they may not be as good at it as a hearing person. So it’s a good idea to keep your English simple.

4. You could use the voice to text function on your phone. Many mobile phones nowadays would allow this and this could be a life saver in urgent situation, for example when a doctor needs to communicate with a deaf person.


Do Not Be Afraid Trials

Emmanuel centre has reworked a program called Do Not Be Afraid prepared by the Australian Catholic Bishops Council with the support of Bishop Sproxton. The program has had resources added and more topics included.  The program is designed in a series of sessions so parishes can choose what they need to meet their needs.

On the 20th and 21st August the program was successfully trialled at St Dominic’s in Innaloo receiving good feedback from the parishioners and Fr Bernard the Parish Priest.  Joe O’Brien and Eric Martin presented the Introduction to Mental Health and Youth and Drugs and Stigma modules which were chosen by the parish in 2 hour sessions.

The parish provided lunches and morning and afternoon teas which were organised by some wonderful parishioners.  On the Sunday everyone went to the Sunday Mass together which was followed by the final session.

We extend our thanks to the Innaloo/Karrinyup Parish for having us.


R U Ok day was celebrated on 8th September 2022. Asking someone R U OK might just make a positive change in the life of others as well as in our own.

Consider using ALEC to help you start the conversation:

· Ask: Pick the right moment and ask R U OK? in a way that feels right for you. Mention changes you’ve noticed and that you’re concerned. 

· Listen: Listen without judgement. Don’t rush or interrupt but encourage them to explain what’s going on for them. 

· Encourage Action: Ask what they’ve done in the past that has helped. There might be something practical you can do, or you could help them access professional support. 

· Check in: Stay in touch after the initial conversation. Check in to ask how they’re feeling and if things have improved. Stay connected so they’ll know you’re there for them. 

For more information, go to


Emmanuel Centre currently has vacancies for Fun Day activities for people with disabilities on Mondays and/ or Tuesdays  from 9.30am-2pm at our centre.  We are conveniently located near East Perth train station.

Cost is $4.00 per day to cover morning tea and light lunch. If you or anyone you know is interested, please talk to our coordinator Joe (9328 8113 or

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