How Xavier Society for the Blind Is Helping Blind Catholics Practice Faith During the Pandemic

Tags: Currents Blind, Brooklyn, NY, Crux, Faith, Pandemic, Queens, NY, Xavier Society

By Emily Drooby

Being blind has always been a part of Donna Slivoski’s life, just like her faith.

She’s a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. Like many Catholics, the way she practices her faith has had to change during the pandemic. However, Donna faces unique challenges. For example, church livestreams don’t work as well for her, especially the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

“It’s not quite the same for me because I can’t see the monstrance that’s being shown on the computer screen,” she explained, saying it’s better for her to be in church to use her other senses. “Because you can smell incense, sometimes you can smell candles and it just increases the sensory awareness of adoration,” she added.

Due to pandemic restrictions, there are times she cannot and could not be in church. Donna refused to let that hurt her faith.

For example, when she couldn’t lector at church, she joined an online prayer group for blind Christians. There, she was able to use those skills.

“Thanks to the Bible that I have in braille, I am able to read the assigned scripture reading every Friday afternoon to the group,” said Donna.

Donna gets many of her Catholic braille resources from Xavier Society for the Blind, a NYC based non-profit founded 120 years ago.

“We provide materials in braille and audio to help blind and visually impaired people practice, develop and learn about their faith,” said Malachy Fallon, their executive director.

He said a lot of their members have struggled during the pandemic.

“There’s a great sense of isolation to begin with because of their blindness, and I think that having the opportunity to practice together in a faith community is very important so I think not having the ability added to the sense of isolation,” he explained further.

During the pandemic, they worked hard to help people like Donna stay connected with their faith. Putting out digital pieces and audio recordings and even sending out the braille versions of the Propers of the Sunday Mass.

It’s proving no matter what obstacles the pandemic throws at Catholics, their faith will always prevail.