Signing the Mass

A New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Catholic Deaf Translation

The Catholic Deaf Community plays a significant role in the lives of many people around New Zealand. In several dioceses, members of the Catholic Deaf Community are able to gather from time to time to use New Zealand Sign Language to celebrate the Mass.

Can Mass be celebrated in sign language?


In 1966, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments responded that sign language is valid for the Liturgy.

Watch the video clip below for an American signed Mass where the priest signs the Words of Consecration while the concelebrant elevates the Body and Blood. The particular part referred to is from about 21mins in.

History of New Zealand Deaf Education

In 1944, St Dominic's School for the Deaf in Island Bay, Wellington opened to provide a Catholic education to deaf children. Before the school opened, two New Zealand Dominican Sisters spent time at the Dominican School for Deaf Girls in Newcastle, Australia.  The teaching method in Newcastle was heavily adapted from Irish Sign Language (ISL) as Dominican involvement in Deaf Education originated in Dublin. The Sisters returned to New Zealand equipped to use ISL. However, when St Dominic's opened, the Ministry of Education instructed the Sisters not to use Sign Language, as the government policy was the Oral Method.

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Heavy indoctrination in the Oral method has meant that a smaller number of Signs were developed for the Mass. However, outside the classroom, and after school hours, NZSL continued to take shape.

Catholic Deaf Education in New Zealand continued to use ISL outside formal education, thus ISL forms the basis of Signs concerning Catholic faith and practices such as the Mass and prayers.

NZSL Translation of the Prayers of the Mass

New Zealand Catholic Bishops with Pope Benedict XVI

Local Catholic deaf communities have been Signing the Mass for many years. In 2010 New Zealand received a new English translation of the Prayers of the Mass. Some words and phrases had changed. So it is a good time now, to review the way we Sign the Mass.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops are grateful to David Loving-Molloy and the group of people he worked with to present a first draft translation of the Signs of the Mass for the new English translation.

The Bishops warmly welcomed this valuable work then asked that the translation be reviewed by members of the Catholic Deaf Community in New Zealand.

The NZSL Catholic Advisory Group

Click the red button for additional resources

Members of the NZSL Catholic Advisory Group are working to enable members of the Catholic Deaf Community to experience a deeper spiritual experience.

We are working together to ensure we use the best possible Signs for praying the Mass.

For resources related to this work, such as the Signing of the Gospel (which can be found on the Catholic Deaf Community Facebook page), please click on the red related resources icon above.