MUMBAI, India – A deaf and speech-impaired man was ordained a priest in India, and says he hopes to offer more support for deaf Catholics in the South Asian country.

Father Joseph Thermadom of the Holy Cross Congregation was ordained at Our Lady of Dolours Basilica in Thrissur, in the state of Kerala, by Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhath on May 3.

According to Church sources, Thermadom is the first deaf person to be ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church in the country. He is believed to be the second such priest in Asia and the 26th in the world.

A native of Thrissur, Thermadom was ordained by the city’s metropolitan archbishop, Mar Andrews Thazhath.

Born deaf and speech impaired, Thermadom, who is 38, did his theology studies at the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate in the United States. He then served as deacon and made the first religious profession in 2020 at the Holy Cross Novitiate at Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. He made his final profession last August. He conducts his prayers in sign language.

“The ‘final profession’ of Thermadom made history in the Congregation and possibly in India, as he became the first deaf person to make the ‘final profession’ in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He is also probably the first finally professed religious who was born deaf in India,” according to statement from the congregation.

Along with his brother who is also hearing impaired, Joseph went to school in Mumbai. He felt his calling to become a priest rather early, but could not proceed due to various circumstances. He began receiving a religious formation under Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate in the United States. Having completed his studies, he returned to India. He had originally came in contact with the Holy Cross Fathers through their Ministry for the Deaf.

“Having expressed his desire to join their ministry, he was received at Aymanam Holy Cross community in 2017 as a come-and-see member. After completing a year of Novitiate at Yercaud, Joseph made his first religious vows on 25th May 2020,” the Holy Cross community said.

Speaking to Crux, Thermadom said his mission as a priest “is to provide all sacraments in Indian Sign Language to all Catholic deaf people in India.”

“I also support God’s calling the deaf people to priesthood and religious life. I also support the sacraments needs of hearing Catholics through interpreters, writing notes, etc. I would be happy to help the education of all the deaf people irrespective of religions. I would be happy to help all the people through prayers and presence,” he said.

Asked about his motto – Do Not Curse the Deaf – Thermadom said, “Leviticus 19:14 is the only positive view of the verse in the whole of the Bible on the deaf people.”

“My mother, Rosy Thomas, worked hard for me and my elder deaf brother, Stalin, in many ways such as feeding, teaching, travelling, accompanying, et cetera,” he said.

“My father, T.L. Thomas, provides the strong foundation of my family. My brother protects me in many ways like avoiding falling into traps, guiding, helping, et cetera,” he explained to Crux.