Benedictine Interpreting Mass in American Sign Language

If you know Brother Linus Klucsarits, O.S.B., manager of the Gristmill General Store, you may recently have noticed him on the altar at the Saint Vincent Basilica 9:30 a.m. Sunday Masses. He stands between the altar and the lector during the entire Mass, making him visible to the majority of the congregation. He is providing his skills in American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation to interpret Mass for the deaf community in the area.

Brother Linus, native of Allentown, and graduate of Allentown Central Catholic, began signing in 1984 “very much by accident.” A friend of Brother Linus’ requested him as a partner for their Thursday apostolate at the Archbishop Ryan School for the Deaf in Philadelphia. From this point on, Brother Linus found a calling serving the deaf and hard of hearing community.

After receiving his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Saint Charles Seminary in 1987, Brother Linus went on to the only school in the world where a master’s degree in sign language is offered, Gallaudet University. He then earned certification in transliteration and interpretation with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.

Once out of school, Brother Linus worked as a freelance interpreter in Philadelphia and South Jersey. He interpreted in the court system, in hospitals, and in schools. In addition, he has interpreted for many other events – from a speech for President Bill Clinton to the birth of a baby.

“I had the honor of interpreting for President Clinton in 1994 when he visited Philadelphia,” Brother Linus said. As if interpreting for the president was not stressful enough, “to add to the tension, the White House told us we could not have the speech ahead of time. I was interpreting with another interpreter and she and I had to listen carefully and do the best we could.”

“I also interpreted for the birth of the baby within a few months of interpreting for the president,” he continued. He was on call at the local hospital when he got a late night phone call to assist in the Labor and Delivery Department. No female interpreters were available, but Brother Linus says, “as a professional interpreter, I knew where to stand and position myself so that I could interpret all the information from her doctor accurately while still respecting the patient’s privacy. I was happy to provide that service and the mother told me that she really felt more comfortable having an interpreter present.”

In addition to his work experience, Brother Linus also served as a coordinator for the interpretation education program at the Camden County College, N.J., for ten years.

When asked what his favorite part of interpreting for the deaf and hard of hearing is, Brother Linus said, “I don’t know if I can pick one.” First, he said enjoys the challenge of relating information from one language to another- English and ASL. Second, “If I do my job well, it makes someone’s life better.”

Brother Linus arrived at the Saint Vincent Archabbey in July of 2003, and has a full slate of monastic and seminary studies. However, with the blessing of Father Meinrad Lawson, O.S.B., Pastor of Saint Vincent Parish, the opportunity to interpret the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass came to fruition this year.

When asked if the Mass, being abstract as it is, is difficult to interpret, Brother Linus said usually it is not since the same prayers are used consistently. “Sometimes the homily and the hymns are difficult to interpret,” he admits, but typically, he has no problems interpreting for the Saint Vincent community and really enjoys his work.

Everyone, the deaf community in particular, is welcome to come and celebrate the 9:30 a.m. Mass on Sundays at the Saint Vincent Basilica, he added. This growing program hopes to serve more members of the community in the future.

Click here to view the accompanying photos in a larger format.

By Vanessa Shepherd