Man becomes seventh deaf ordained priest

Originally appeared in Silent News, November 2001.

James Hall was ordained a Catholic priest in Aurora, Ill. on June 9. He becomes the seventh deaf priest in the be ordained.

Hall, who grew up in the Warren/Niles area near Youngstown in Ohio became deaf at nine years old from spinal meningitis. After attending a few mainstreamed programs, Hall made his way to the St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati. Upon graduation, he attended Youngstown College (now University) for two years. “I did not receive a degree in anything. My goal at that time was to be a mechanical engineer, but as time went on, I was unable to finish,” Hall said, citing the lack of interpreters as a reason. “I had no notetakers or tutors to help me.”

In January 1972, Hall decided to enter the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart as a Religious Brother. “In 1978, I began to take an interest in a different way of life, and began my studies to become a priest with the permission of the order,” Hall says. “It was just a special feeling I had where I feel I could reach out and touch the lives of other deaf people in a special way.”

He then entered Gallaudet College (now University), finishing up with a degree in psychology. Next was the Washington Theology Union in Silver Spring, Md., to begin his studies for the priesthood. However, he decided to take a leave to see if the priesthood was truly for him. “Through much spiritual guidance I was encouraged to return and complete my studies and become a priest,” Hall says. “I became involved in Deaf Ministry in the Dicoese of Gary, Ind. At the age of 59, I again developed an interest in the priesthood and began my studies again, this time at the Catholic Theology Union in Chicago.”

Hall completed his certification in pastoral studies, and began his preparation. “I became a priest at the age of 64 and am enjoying the fruits of my ministry.”

Today, Hall is in the Aurora, Ill. area, and working at five dioceses in the area. “Being ordained as a priest became a great joy for me as I reach out touch the lives of others in a special way, which includes bringing the word of God into their life and helping them to live His word,” Hall states. “I feel a special blessing to be part of this ministry.”

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