By Fleur Magbanua-Mansur, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Dec. 18, 2013
PHOENIX, Ariz. – A retired Filipino priest residing in Phoenix, Ariz. invented a computerized confession tool for the speech and hearing impaired.
Fr. Romuald Zantua calls it the St. Damien confession box—an innovation borne out of the need he saw when he worked with patients dealing with hearing loss.
“I ask the question: How can those who cannot hear go to confession?” Zantua said. “Confession is a dialogue. And also those who lost voice. Once in a while I lose my voice. I have ministered confession in the hospital with [to patients with] tracheotomies. How can those people in that condition go to confession? All these things, we need to find a solution.”
The program is installed on two laptops connected by a cable. The device is used for confession only and internet connectivity is disabled to help ensure confidentiality. Written and sign language video instructions guide both penitent and priest.
“It’s like talking in a chat room, in a secure one,” he said. “The way you confess in a regular way, only you have to type your sins. The priest likewise types his admonition or penance.”
“If you know how to text and many people know how to text, then you’ll know how to use it,” he added.
Fr. Zantua said that many priests find it hard to read written confessions from the deaf, as well as understanding those with speech impairment.
“With this device, I can now minister the sacrament of penance and reconciliation to those who cannot talk and those who cannot hear,” he said. “I included those who cannot talk, because those who lost their voice, they need to write too. They may be able to hear, but they will not be able to express. In other words, I will be able to reach out to many people.”
For now, the device is programmed in English. But he plans to input other languages while waiting approval from the Vatican
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