About Ephpheta > Our History
The Ephpheta Centre was established in 1979 to provide services for the Catholic deaf community in Sydney.
Sr Helen Gaffey was appointed to work with the Catholic Deaf in Sydney. The Sisters of Charity made premises in Paddington available for the Centre and the name Ephpheta was chosen. This name was chosen because when Jesus cured the deaf man he said, “Ephpheta” which means “be open”. We must “be open” to God’s word, to new and different ideas, and to all people. The Ephpheta Centre had begun!
The work of the Ephpheta Centre continued to grow – from regular monthly Mass at Stanmore, more special Masses for the deaf in different parishes around Sydney started to be celebrated. Religious education programmes were commenced. Scripture and bible study classes began and the Ephpheta newsletter was started. Counselling and guidance for the Deaf and their families was provided. Youth programmes commenced and camps were held. The Centre also provided a venue for social events.
Fr Peter Fitzgerald
Fr Peter Fitzgerald became the chaplain while Mary Caruana took over as director. At this time the Ephpheta Centre moved to Lewisham. Cardinal Clancy blessed and opened the Centre in April, 1989.
In 1991 Mary Caruana retired and Fr Peter Fitzgerald became director. Then in 1996 the Centre moved to Flemington and the first Mass for the Deaf was celebrated in St Dominic’s Church at Flemington in March that year.
Fr Peter Woodward
After moving to Flemington Fr Peter Fitzgerald finished his term with the Deaf, and Fr Peter Woodward became our chaplain and director. A Pastoral Council to advise, assist and support the priest and the team was set up and a Liturgy Team was formed.
Towards the end of 2005, His Eminence Cardinal George Pell decided it was time for a Deaf lay person to become director of the Centre and Stephen Lawlor was appointed. Fr Peter Woodward remained as chaplain.
In 2009 the Ephpheta Centre was again on the move, this time to Punchbowl. The premises were an old Josephite convent and have a beautiful chapel used to celebrate deaf Mass. The Centre also has a fantastic outdoor area which is regularly used by the community.
In 2012 Stephen Lawlor was awarded the honour of a Papal award, receiving the honour of Knight of St Sylvester. This award from Pope Benedict XVI was for “distinguished services to the Church in the Archdiocese of Sydney” and was to recognise Stephen's work in the Church and to the Deaf Catholic Community. It is a great recognition by the Church of a deaf person and his work. It is the first Papal award to a deaf person ever in Australia.
The work of the Ephpheta Centre has continued to grow and develop to meet the changing needs of our community – we now have a regular youth group, women's group, men’s group, craft group and other events and activities. Pastoral work and visitation remains an important part of our work as does the provision of regular Mass for our community.