Special Religious Education for the Deaf (SPRED), in partnership with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod, serves some of the poorest parishes in Negros Occidental and Bukidnon, with 21 catechists receiving assistance. Sponsorship of the catechists comes from Welcome Home and with partner organizations.
Interpreted Mass is held in the Father Joseph Coyle’s Chapel for the Deaf (named after the late co-founder of WHFI), for the deaf and hearing alike. A contingent of the deaf (and hearing interpreters) also represent and increase awareness of Welcome Home at various churches where Mass is offered.
Other Catholic ceremonies are hosted by Welcome Home, including the sacrament of matrimony; recently, SPRED funded and facilitated this sacrament for the parents of a deaf ERC pupil. An annual living rosary, a Catholic Marian devotion, is hosted here by WHFI’s students and staff. Additionally, reception affairs and community events are held here.
Welcome Home’s entire staff were invited to the State Visit and Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the Philippines in early 2015. Thanks to a generous donation covering the cost of transportation and lodging in Manila, WHFI was able to participate in the private seminar held for families, and later, youth leaders. From Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Pope Francis learned about the deaf population living in the Philippines, and learned the most fundamental sign of all: “I love you.”
In mid-2015, Welcome Home was honored to host an international contingent of priests from the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) for an evening. (The CICM community supported the pioneering efforts of Fr. Joseph Coyle, SSC and Mrs. Salvacion Tinsay during the early years, and to this day supports us in small and large ways, including hosting our annual community Christmas celebration.) After learning about the continuing secular and religious education offered by WHFI, the priests glowingly praised the current efforts and promised unconditional support in the future.
Focusing on children's catechetical education and adult faith formation, WHFI offers classes to students of all ages, and staff seminars for continual professional development and to train new catechists country-wide.
WHFI uses two types of resources to provide a comprehensive teaching of the Catholic faith: youth resources, such as YOUCAT, a modern catechismal guide from Ignatius Press, and traditional resources which aid in the exposition of doctrine. Together, they serve together as a base in which the introduction to the Sacraments can be taught, and everything from scripture analysis to moral development can be taught.
Most of WHFI's catechists are deaf lay persons, whose faith has moved them to teach their faith to other deaf. They undergo training in the Catechetical Institute (Sacred Heart Shrine) under the direction of the Diocese of Bacolod. By incorporating their own experience as a deaf person, they are even more effective in reaching the youth, and spreading good values.
As SPRED enters the digital age, Welcome Home is pioneering the use of modern technology with visual storytelling methods that come naturally to many deaf people. WHFI is developing a collection of Filipino Sign Language videos on Biblical scripture, catechism, moral theology, and ethical issues. This, coupled with our FSL dictionary, allows the youth—who are often tethered to their mobile phones, tablets and computers—to be engaged with WHFI’s ministry anytime.