LANDOVER HILLS, Md. — On Dec. 14, six new members professed to the St. Francis of Assisi Deaf Secular Franciscan Fraternity at a Mass at St. Francis Chapel of the Archdiocese of Washington Center for Deaf Ministries here.
As a deacon for the deaf community in the Washington, D.C., area, I preached at the Mass. Francis Di Spigno, OFM, co-presided, and Francis Lee, OFM, a friar from Korea in residence at Holy Name College, also attended.
Eleanor Ward, Godwin Ofodu, David Koche, Sally Favor Mooney, Janice Noyes and Peter Noyes all discerned a call to the Franciscan life and made their final promises during the Mass. After experiencing, praying and learning about Franciscan life for two years, they professed their commitment to follow this call.
A History of the Ministry
Dorothy Steffanic, SFO, minister of the fraternity, received the new members. St. Francis of Assisi Deaf Fraternity is one of the only deaf SFO fraternities in the world. The fraternity was founded under the obedience of Holy Name Province in 1978 by deacon Paul Pernecky, who lost his hearing at age 17.
Peter Sheridan, OFM, supported Paul Pernecky as the first spiritual assistant. Steffanic learned about the fraternity from the late friar John Bosco Valente, OFM, during a hiatus from her work with the Peace Corps in 1977. After she finished with the Peace Corps, John suggested that she join the SFO in December 1978.
During a long period when membership fell, Steffanic continued the group. Several years ago, she began to invite more people to join. She felt that God was calling the candidates to profession. “That’s how I invited them. When I see them doing good, that’s why (I invited them),” Steffanic recalled.
Janice Benton, SFO, a hearing woman and veteran of another fraternity, is part of the formation team. Over the past two years of formation, we have led discussions with the candidates on Franciscan spirituality. The formation discussions have included poverty, prayer, the Church, ecology and justice, among other topics.
Fran called the event a blessing.
“It was an absolute delight to participate in the celebration and profession of our six brothers and sisters into the Secular Franciscan Order,” Fran said. “There is truly a strong and faithful community among the deaf Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington. For me, this profession was an outward sign that they are, and probably always have been, completely Franciscan, as well.”
— Br. Hugh, a recently professed friar in formation, is spiritual assistant to the Deaf Secular Franciscan Fraternity. He was appointed spiritual assistant by Richard Trezza, OFM, in January 2007.