KENYA: Chaplaincy to the Deaf Translates Rite of Mass into Kenyan Sign Language

By Njoki Githinji

NAIROBI, OCTOBER 16, 2020 (CISA)-The Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi Chaplaincy to the Deaf has translated the rite of Mass into Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) to serve the deaf community in Kenya.

“The rite of the Mass is very technical as we hear it, there has never been a translation because we could not get the right and accurate terminologies expressing the rite of the Mass. Six years ago we started a more serious work of translating the Rite of the Mass that can be properly expressed in Kenya sign Language without losing the theological meaning of the concepts,” Fr Jose Martinez, the Archdiocesan Chaplain to the deaf told CISA.

The translation process that took six years was spearheaded by Fr Jose in liaison with members of the deaf community in Kenya, who helped him come up with suggestions of signs that could depict various terminologies used in Mass without losing their theological concepts.

Speaking October 14, Fr Martinez noted that sign language interpreters have to be trained specifically on how to sign the rite of Mass without deviating into their own personal understanding.

“Once we had the translation, we started offering training to liturgical interpreters and the deaf, because the deaf need to get to know the meaning of the Mass and they have to know how to respond at Mass. We offered training to those who were doing the service of interpretation so that they don’t interpret in their own understanding sometimes going astray in the theological meaning but rather follow the conventional way of signing the rite of the Mass,” he said.

According to Fr Martinez, previously there was no official way to sign the rite of Mass and sometimes, wrong interpretation was given for various theological concepts.

“We have been able to standardize the system of the rite of Mass in Kenyan sign language that can be used across the country,” he said.

The sign language Missal comes in a package of a 50-minute-video and a booklet containing text and corresponding iconography. The Missal will be launched in Nairobi, on December 5, 2020 during the Archdiocese of Nairobi annual Mass for the deaf.