The Bishops of England and Wales have taken the initial steps towards the first-ever national census of Catholic deaf children. Priests have been asked to make returns of all such children living in their parishes.
The results of the survey will be used by the recentlyappointed working party which is responsible for devising a pastoral care and religious education programme for them.
It is believed that there are about 900 deaf Catholic children throughout the country, 160 of whom attend St. John's residential school at Boston Spa, in Yorkshire.
"The remainder are very inadequately provided for from the point of view of Catholic education," said Fr. Charles Hollywood of St. Joseph's Mission for the Deaf. Manchester.
Commenting on the census, he said, "One of the problems is that of diagnosis. The parish clergy may well he aware that there is a handicapped child without being totally aware that the problem is one specifically of deafness.
"Obviously there are a lot of other things we shall have to do before the figures are complete. We shall have to approach the schools, contact the education officers and enquire of the Health Departments."
Recently a team of eight priests and nuns spent two weeks giving a special mission for the deaf in the Archdiocese of Liverpool and the Diocese of Lancaster. Part of their programme was to visit all the schools for deaf children to try to make contact with the Catholics, "We located more than 100 but we are not certain that this is a comprehensive list," explained Fr. Hollywood.
One of the proposals to be studied by the working party will be the establishment of a national system of peripatetic teachers who will train and assist teams of volunteer teachers working in areas where the numbers of Catholic deaf children are greatest.
Sonic children, such as those 'attending the Northern Counties School, Newcastle, where visiting nuns give religious education, are already provided for. Others, however, are not so fo.; .note.
Fr. Ho wood referred to one school in the Salford Diocese where he had been trying to gain admission for ten years. "One of the greatest difficulties is that of gaining access. One result of this census is that. with the approach coming from the Hierarchy, access may become easier."