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A Brief History of the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society

A Brief History of the

St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society

 

1837 – At the invitation of Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis, two Sisters of St. Joseph came to St. Louis from France to open the first Catholic school for the Deaf in the United States. This school was a log cabin, located near the banks of the Mississippi River. The increasing number of Deaf students in later years made it necessary for the Sisters and children to move to a bigger institution and named the school St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf.

 

1914 - The St. Francis DeSales Society for the Deaf was established in St. Louis. The monthly meetings were held at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf on Garrison Avenue.

 

1934 - When the new St. Joseph Institute moved to a new location on 82nd Street in University City, MO, in June, the monthly meetings by St. Francis DeSales Society for the Deaf discontinued. As a result, the Society gradually dissolved.

 

1937 - Father Edward Kartheiser, C.Ss.R., was appointed assistant pastor at St. Alphonsus (Rock) Church. This priest came to St. Louis from New Orleans, where he had been actively engaged in Catholic Deaf Ministry for over ten years. He started giving sermons in sign language on the first Sundays of each month at the Rock Church. He also held meetings with the congregation in the school hall.

 

1938 - Father Kartheiser’s illness forced him to give up his work with the Deaf. Soon afterwards, Fr. Julian Grehan, C.Ss.R, succeeded Fr. Kartheiser.

 

1941 - Because the former members of the St. Francis DeSales Society wanted a Catholic organization of their own, they established the Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis. The first officers of this new organization were elected in June. The first officers were: Fred Lippert – President; James Rudoff – Vice President, John Farkas – Secretary, Rita Heckemeyer – Treasurer, and Eva Ellspermann – Financial Secretary.

 

1951 - When Fr. Grehan was transferred to Detroit in Janaury, Fr. Kalters and Fr. Raymond Gruenke, both C.Ss.Rs., came together to minister to the Deaf. Fr. Kalter’s health turned for worse a few years later, making it necessary for him to leave the Catholic Deaf ministry. Fr. Gruenke carried on the work.

The Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis held meetings once a month. It also hosted various retreats given by Fr. James Higgins, C.Ss.R.; Fr. David Walsh, C.Ss.R.; and Fr. Julian Grehan, C.Ss.R.

In September, a new organization for Catholic Deaf Women was formed by the Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis: Our Lady of Nazareth Club.

 

1953 - The Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis became a charter member (Chapter #6) of the International Catholic Deaf Association (ICDA).

 

1955 – The Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis hosted its first ICDA Convention, which was a huge success. The members gave a big donation from the Convention to St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf for the purpose of erecting Celestine Hall on the school premises.

 

1958 – The Society of the Catholic Deaf of St. Louis held its first annual Coronation Ball at Santa Cruz Hall. The first Queen of the Ball was Clare Pudlowski.

Father Gruenke dreamed of having a center for the Deaf. He worked hard to get the needed support for his dream. He gave talks at all the Catholic churches in St. Louis, asking for donations.

 

1966 – On October 30th, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ritter dedicated the new Community Center for the Deaf (CCD) at the Rock Church. Fr. Gruenke was the first director of this new Center. JoAnn Nichols was appointed his secretary.

 

1967 – The CCD Auxiliary members asked members of the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society to join them in their work helping CCD to succeed and meet its needs as well. As a result, they raised thousands of dollars to support CCD.

 

1978 – Sister Rita Pickhinke, R.S.M., moved to St. Louis to work with the Catholic Deaf. She was also involved in St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

 

1983 – Fr. Jim Byrnes began working with Sister Rita and at the same time learned sign language.

 

1984 – Fr. Byrnes was transferred in May from Holy Infant Church in Ballwin to St. Mary Magdalene Church in Brentwood. He offered Mass on Sundays once a month there for the Catholic Deaf. At the same time, Fr. Gruenke had Masses for the Catholic Deaf on a different Sunday in order to avoid conflict with Fr. Byrnes’.

The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society continued having monthly meetings at CCD.

Archbishop John May of St. Louis sent Fr. Byrnes to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. to learn sign language and deaf culture.

 

1985 – The Catholic Deaf Society in St. Louis held its first annual banquet at the Community Center of the Deaf.

 

1987 – Upon return in July from Washington, D.C., Fr. Byrnes was assigned to work full time with Catholic Deaf people in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

 

1988 – Fr. Raymond Gruenke passed away in March.

Fr. Byrnes became moderator of the Catholic Deaf Society and was asked by Archbishop May of St. Louis to take over the responsibility of the CCD.

Sister Rita Pickhinke left St. Louis to work with the Catholic Deaf in the Philippine Islands.

Sister Campion Breske, S.C.C., came to St. Louis from Chicago in August to succeed Sister Rita.

The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society presented the first Rev. Raymond Gruenke, C.Ss.R. Memorial Award to the CCD Auxiliary at an annual banquet on October 8th.

 

1989 - JoAnn Nichols retired on Valentine’s Day after 23 years working as secretary of the CCD.

Because of the move of the Catholic Deaf Ministry to Kenrick Pastoral Care, the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society held meetings there.

 

1990 – On the tenth anniversary of his priesthood (May 24th), Fr. Byrnes received a phone call, telling him that Archbishop May had appointed him pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Pagedale.

The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society held its second ICDA Convention at Washington University in Clayton. This week event was a big success. As soon as the convention was over, the The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society moved from Kenrick Seminary to St. Catherine of Siena.

 

1991 – Sister Campion Breske terminated her work in St. Louis in May.

Fr. Byrnes hired Ann Pudlowski as a pastoral worker in the Catholic Deaf Ministry in June.

Fr. Byrnes was a moderator of St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society. Ann was assistant moderator of the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

 

1994 – Fr. Byrnes accepted a new parish assignment with the hearing. At the same time, Fr. Victor Barnhart succeeded him.

The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society held its first ICDA-US Midwest Regional Conference.

 

2002 – The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society moved with the Catholic Deaf Ministry from St. Catherine of Siena to Blessed John XXIII Center in January.

 

2007 – Fr. Vic Barnhart terminated Ann Pudlowski from her role as Assistant Director of Catholic Deaf Ministry at Blessed John XXIII Center on account of the St. Louis Archdiocesan budget cuts. Ann continued being assistant moderator for the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

 

2009 – The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society moved again with the Catholic Deaf Ministry from Blessed John XXIII Center to St. Andrew’s Church in Lemay in August because Fr. Barnhart was made a pastor on a full-time basis.

 

2010 – Ann Pudlowski resigned from being assistant moderator of the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

Brother Joseph Thermadom, O.P. Miss., was elected as moderator of St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

 

2011 – Fr. Vic Barnhart resigned from both St. Andrew’s Church and Catholic Deaf Ministry on a leave of absence in September.

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis appointed the Dominican Missionaries of the Deaf Apostolate in October to continue Catholic Deaf Ministry in the Archdiocese and at St. Andrew’s Church. Brother Joseph Thermadom continued his role as the moderator of the St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society.

 

2012 – The St. Louis Catholic Deaf Society hosts its second ICDA-US Midwest Regional Conference.

 

2015 – Brother Joseph Thermadom's 2-year term as a moderator of Society will expire this year. He decided that he would no longer run for another term because he would receive Master of Divinity (M.Div) at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis this year. Two people were nominated to replace him. Ann Pudlowski was elected.