Signing the Mass - An NZSL Catholic Deaf Translation

History of New Zealand Catholic 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.


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. 

 (images used with permission from SignDNA)


NZSL Translation of the Prayers of the Mass

 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 Review Team



Members of the Review Team are working their way through the Signs of the Mass with members of their local Catholic Deaf Communities.





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



Useful Links:

Auckland Catholic Religious Education Deaf Ministry Page

Diocese of Palmerston North Catholic Deaf Centre

Ephpheta Catholic Centre for Deaf & Hard of Hearing People

The Online Dictionary for New Zealand Sign Language