Our History


In 1913, Father Henry Kaufmann, a diocesan priest and pastor of St. Joseph Church on Jay Street near the famous Eastern Market, became aware of baptized Deaf Catholics who had no priest. He wrote to Bishop Foley, the ordinary of Detroit, saying that the Catholic Deaf community there was “a flock without a shepherd.” He asked permission to establish a Deaf ministry. It is interesting to note that Father Kaufmann’s family owned a grocery store and, during his childhood, often met Deaf customers there. Later, while in the seminary in Milwaukee, he was exposed to Deaf pupils at St. John School for the Deaf, which was located behind the seminary. After learning American Sign Language (ASL), Father Kaufmann offered the first Mass for the Catholic Deaf community at St. Joseph Church on October 11, 1914. Records indicate that 37 Deaf Catholics were present. After the first Mass, they formed the St. Joseph Ephpheta Society. For the next 60 years, Deaf Catholics congregated at various churches -- wherever the Deaf chaplain was assigned. Finally in 1974 they found a permanent home at St. John’s Deaf Center in Warren. In 1985, Cardinal Szoka established another Deaf Center at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Redford for people living on the westside.


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