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carpenter Sean Kelly

My name is Fr. Tom Coughlin. I’m the Administrator/Pastor of St. Benedict’s Parish for the Deaf. I work as a Roman Catholic priest in a deaf parish in San Francisco.

My interest in becoming a priest

How did I become interested in this profession? I attended St. Mary's School for the Deaf in Buffalo, New York and was influenced by the Sisters of Saint Joseph who were dedicated to serving God and His deaf people. I enjoyed talking to deaf people about God and this is one of the reasons why I became a Roman Catholic priest.

How I became a priest

It takes about 8 years for anyone to become a Roman Catholic priest. We are required to have a Bachelor's degree from accredited colleges or universities and a Master of Divinity from accredited seminaries. There are 5 deaf priests working in the USA as Roman Catholic priests right now. Most people do not think that a deaf person can become a Roman Catholic priest. For 2,000 years the Catholic Church did not ordain any deaf or disabled priests in the church. I had to challenge the Church in 1977 to ordain me, and I was able to do so because I was successful at obtaining a Master Degree in Theology from Catholic University in 1976.

My daily life

My daily schedule is like this; at 9 a.m., I have my morning prayers with the deaf seminarians and then I begin my work in the parish. I work answering phone calls, making pastoral visits to sick people in hospitals, nursing homes, teaching religion to deaf people who want to become more involved in the church. I prepare sermons for Sunday, write up Sunday bulletins, help with raising funds for the church, do accounting and book-keeping, etc. I usually finish work around 5 p.m. and then have an evening prayer with the deaf seminarians. I have dinner at 6 and then rest for the evening.

On Sunday, it is always very busy! We have Sunday mass at 10:30 a.m. and we get about 100 people in church. We have to prepare for readings/signers, eucharistic ministers, sextons, singers and other things. After mass, we have a 2 -3 hour social. The deaf people leave around 4 p.m. and then I close up the church.