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New App Teaches Deaf to Pray

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A new app to help the deaf pray was developed and produced in Philadelphia.

It's called "Religious Signs for Families" - a sign language app available for Apple and Android devices.

It was developed by Sister Kathleen Schapani, who directs the Deaf Apostolate for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

"It starts simply with religious words and they're mostly nouns such as Jesus, Mary, Holy Spirit, God, pray," she says.

Sister Kathleen says it's geared for deaf children as well as their parents and utilizes American Sign Language accompanied by audio of the action. After working through the basics, she says there's more.

deaf prayer app sister
Sister Kathleen Schapani IHM, director of the Deaf Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, demonstrates the "Religious Signs for Families" app she developed to teach the deaf and hearing impaired to pray. (credit: Mark Abrams)

"Those words are grouped in short prayers," Sister Kathleen says. "And the prayers are also in categories like blessing prayers, or prayers to the Holy Spirit."

Sister Kathleen, who has been involved in ministering to the deaf for more than 30 years, says the app grew out of her desire to teach children in her religious education classes to pray.

"I began inquiring with some people about could we have an app," Sister Kathleen says. "And, then just decided with some collaborators - a group of deaf parents - what would be helpful."

Sister Kathleen says she took a bi-lingual approach and used people here in Philadelphia as models and to deliver the language.

"You can hit English and the captions will be in English," she says. "You can hit Spanish and the captions will be in Spanish. There is a little icon of a child and a parent. You hit the parent and it's an adult model; you hit the child icon and it's a child."

The app was rolled out last month.

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