Sister Wigginton honored for her work with deaf Catholics

Father Sean Carrey, president of National Catholic Deaf Office; Minette Sternke from Illinois; Ursuline Sister Rita Ann Wigginton and Father Bill Key from Milwaukee. (Photo Special to The Record)

Ursuline Sister of Louisville Rita Ann Wigginton was named the Father David Walsh Pastoral Worker of 2020 at the annual meeting of the National Catholic Office for the Deaf held in Kansas City, Kan., in January.

Sister Wigginton has ministered to the deaf community for several decades and currently serves as the director of the Ministry Formation Program, a lay ministry training for Catholic deaf adults sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The MFP for Catholic Deaf Persons is a “four-year program of education and formation for Catholic deaf and hard-of-hearing women and men to acquire and develop ministerial skills necessary to serve as active Catholic lay ministers in the deaf community,” according to a news release from the Ursulines.

In addition, the MFP guides them in deepening their spirituality and understanding of the pastoral and religious needs of deaf people, according to the program’s website.

Sister Wigginton graduated from then-Bellarmine College in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She went on to earn a master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University in 1976.

In 1981, she earned a certificate of advanced educational specialization in religious education from Boston College. She also did coursework at Spalding College (now university) and Lourdes College. In 2004, she earned a master’s degree in theology from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.

At the 2020 annual meeting, Sister Wigginton said it was a privilege to be able to communicate her faith with this “linguistic minority and to be able to hear what the deaf want to tell her,” the release said.

“The deaf community is a culture, not a handicap or disability,” she said.

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