The best thing about the Ephpheta Centre for deaf and hard of hearing Catholics is that it transforms lives.
“Spiritual warmth and community connections have made me feel alive,” David Parker wrote. David is the Manager of Community at the Ephpheta Centre and was born profoundly deaf.
David was received into the Catholic Church last year.
“My work colleagues and Fr John Hill from the John Pierce Centre (our sister organisation in Melbourne) have moved me spiritually,” he said.
“This was a huge step for me and my family who supported me in my journey. My new Catholic faith has helped me define who I am and bring me closer to God. My spiritual tank is constantly replenished.”
He has been at the Ephpheta Centre for eight years and wonders, “Where did the time go!”
Before Ephpheta, David was a software engineer for Altium, a software company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. “Before I started at Ephpheta I worked for 15 years for a world-class electronics design automation company where I was involved in research and design.”
“I have a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering from the University of New South Wales. So starting working at a Catholic centre for deaf people was a big career change for me.”
David has been a member of corporate committees on inclusion, at Telstra and Optus, as well as on the board of the Deaf Society (NSW) and Deaf Australia.
As Manager of Community at the Ephpheta Centre, David engages the community through support and pastoral care. “I listen to their issues and problems,” he said.
“I might be asked to help a community member who has an issue with their car insurance bill and an hour later be supporting a person who has just lost a loved one.”
David praises all of the team at Ephpheta for their compassion and professional dedication. “The team at the Ephpheta Centre is very good at multi-tasking to do whatever needs to be done to support our community. We are often called in to assist when a person has a crisis in their lives to offer practical and spiritual support.”
David leads a team of pastoral workers (both on staff and volunteers) who visit deaf people in their homes, nursing homes and hospitals. There is regular provision of Mass and other sacramental programs, provided by Fr Michael Lanzon from the Archdiocese of Sydney and supported by Fr John Paul Escarlan, Assistant Priest at Richmond Parish in the Diocese of Parramatta. Their work is widespread across Sydney, providing services in the dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay, and the Archdiocese of Sydney.
A range of social groups support the deaf community and provide social days out, including a youth group. Ephpheta also takes deaf Catholics on life-changing social experiences, such as World Youth Day.
“My trip to Italy and Spain as part of the World Youth Day 2011 was totally amazing. I travelled with a group of young deaf people and three Auslan interpreters. All the lovely people we met during our travels had a profound impact on me,” he said.
“World Youth Day was an extraordinary opportunity for us – to practice our faith together and to mix and share experiences with people (including other deaf youth) from all over the world.”
Ephpheta is quite an extraordinary place – the word “Ephpheta” means to “be open” and David and the team aim to live this spirit in their daily work. David sees the spiritual side of their work as receiving the word of God and being open in how they communicate, so that all people receive the message.
David learned this lesson one day, while encouraging a group of deaf seniors to be independent. “My boss at the time pulled me aside and explained how gentle care and support goes a long way, that by being patient and supportive we can empower and walk beside members of our community,” David said.
“This is the Ephpheta way, truly in the spirit of the Gospel message – to walk beside people in their journey, to encourage and support and never judge.”
By Jordan Grantham, Catholic Outlook, February 2017