Convent and Stuart Hall High School students squeezed into the Octavia campus’ gym this morning to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints.
The Rev. Paul Zirimemya, who is deaf, lead the Mass in sign language while Jeanine Collins interpreted it for the congregation.
“Priesthood is a calling from God,” Zirimemya said. “I was 14 years old, and I thought being a priest would be cool. But I dropped the idea because I’m deaf, and I’d never seen a deaf priest before. Then, at 23, I met a priest from Belgium who was hard-of-hearing—not completely deaf. I told him I had this calling from God to become a priest, and he said go for it.”
Zirimemya demonstrated to students and teachers how to sign “amen” and “with your spirit” and had them practice the motions before beginning Mass.
“Father Zirimemya enhanced the experience,” junior Lulu Desai said. “It was interesting to see him use his hands to communicate his words.”
Some students cited other aspects of the Mass that they enjoyed, including the homily which spoke of the risks of underestimating our own capabilities through idolizing those we look up to.
“I really enjoyed today’s homily because it was very relatable and applicable,” SHHS senior Michael Tellini said. “It was interesting because he [Father Zirimemya] asked people to think for themselves and exercise their conscience before worshipping a hero.”
Zirimemya expressed that his lack of hearing is a unique gift and shared that he believes everybody has a gift of their own.
“I see my being deaf as a gift from God,” Zirimemya said. “Beauty is inside each person. You have to ask God to guide you, and it’s never easy. He gave me that gift. There is absolutely no barrier if I believe in God.”