The origins of the John Pierce Centre (JPC) date back to 1935, when Father John Pierce was appointed as the first Chaplain to the Catholic Deaf Community in Victoria.
Since then, the mission of JPC has been inspired by Jesus Christ and the traditions of the Catholic Church, as it seeks to empower all Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and their families within Victoria to live their lives to the full.
Recently their community gatherings, a pivotal part of their program offering, were forced to stop overnight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Christine Elder, JPC Administration Manager, spoke to CDF about the impact on their community:
New Ways to Connect
‘Our community have been very advanced in adopting technology as a way of being able to communicate with one another. However, as we all know technology cannot replace meeting in person. With our group gatherings cancelled overnight we needed to be mindful or how our community are feeling.
We soon recognised that while some of our community are comfortable with technology like text messages, they are not used to other forms of technology like accessing videos or being on Zoom calls. To support them we’ve been contacting each person individually to check-in on them and what support they need.
We’ve seen a big increase in the interactions though our Facebook groups. We also produced ‘missing you’ videos and new online groups based on interests such as gardening, art or crafts.
Signee Tots Education
For our young community members, the ‘Signee Tots’ group, we created a newsletter, with activities to support their learning. We also provided some advice for deaf parents who may have children undertaking remote learning.
In some cases, it was difficult for them to help their children due to communication challenges with the school in a fast-changing environment. Through building the bridge between the students, the parents, and the learning materials our team have really made a difference.
AUSLAN at St Pat’s
Another wonderful development for our community has been the partnership with St Patrick’s Cathedral. AUSLAN interpreters are now present at the Sunday Mass with Archbishop Peter, televised on Channel 31. This means our community now have a way to participate in Church each week, and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback. Our staff have also been recorded for JPC Facebook page “Friday Faith Videos” and “Gospel Reading & Reflection Videos” every Sunday for our community.
We know the current situation will continue to throw challenges to our community. Even coming back together and maintaining social distancing, will be difficult. This is a community who use contact as a way to interact and get the attention of one another. This is something we’ll focus on in coming weeks. For all that has changed overnight, I am pleased to say I’ve never seen our community stronger or more connected.
Finally, we are thankful for the support of the CDF team, particularly Gerard and Fran. Through this support we’re able to maintain a strong financial position and continue our pastoral care services. This helps us to continue promoting community through education, spirituality and family support.’
For more information about the John Pierce Centre visit: https://www.jpc.org.au/