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We saw the signs

Our Q & A in this issue of God @ Work is with well-known husband and wife Bryan and Niobe Rodrigues of the Touch of Christ Catholic Deaf Community. They share what life is like on their marital journey.


Q: Can you tell us a bit about your Catholic backgrounds? Parishes, schools etc?

Niobe: I grew up in St Anthony’s community in Tabaquite and was a member of the choir there until I got married. The Catholic schools I attended were Tabaquite RC School and St Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando.

Bryan: I grew up in Mayo and attend Mass at St Joseph’s RC Church in the community. However, sometimes I went to interpret Mass with my aunt and my mother at Sacred Heart RC in Port of Spain. Later on, at CIC (St Mary’s College), Deaf persons dramatised the Gospel for Mass and I was involved. I have been involved with Touch of Christ ever since it was founded in 1990. I assisted the priest by sharing a reflection on the reading at Deaf church at age 16 and became a lay minister for Deaf services at age 20.


Q: How did you meet and what were the first impressions of each other?

Niobe: I saw Bryan before we officially met when I attended a Sign Language class at Touch of Christ’s centre (formerly in Mount Lambert). He had just returned from New York where he was studying to be a priest and all I thought was that he was very white (chuckle).

Bryan: I first saw Niobe at my uncle’s wedding. She signed the songs for the ceremony. It was the first time I saw her, and I was surprised that she already knew Sign Language.


Q: What were the specific challenges you had as a married couple, and how did you overcome them?

In the past sometimes, we would have had challenges agreeing on the frequency of being intimate. However, when either of us was frustrated, we talked to each other about it and resolved it between ourselves. On the rare occasion that Bryan loses his temper, it is best to wait it out because he would always apologise to the person that he disagrees with –whether it is the children or me –and we all try to do better and be more considerate thereafter.


Q: Share some examples, Niobe, in your social interactions of how you promoted inclusivity for Bryan?

There are no Deaf people in my family so before we married and now when he visits my family I would interpret conversations for him. However, one of my sisters knows the Sign Language alphabet and would spell her conversations to him. My family is very comfortable with him so much so that they would message him and make plans and then let me know about it.

At home, all our children sign whatever they need to communicate to their father. Aside from at home, Bryan is quite independent and would only ask for my support in a few things mainly in editing his English if he needs to communicate with persons at work, the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission who has responsibility for Touch of Christ, or some hearing members of his family.


Q: What are some of the misconceptions that you both would have had to deal with?

Niobe: One misconception would have been that some opinions that Bryan expressed would have been my thoughts and not his own ideas or decisions. This would usually be the case where hearing people were in the majority and thought that Deaf persons would always blindly follow their lead. Bryan has always stood up for himself and makes decisions based on how he thinks it will impact the Deaf community. He is no one’s puppet and definitely not mine.

Bryan: When I was younger, I thought that if I ever were to marry, I would have a Deaf wife but then when I was discerning my vocation to become a priest, I did not think about it much. Later when I left Deaf seminary, I decided to be celibate but after some time God told me that Niobe and I were to marry. I had no challenges with a hearing wife as I had attended a mainstream school and had many hearing friends.


Q: What are some of the learnings in your marriage as a couple?

Niobe: I think learning as a couple happens if both parties enter into marriage with the right mindset. Before marriage, we promised each other that we would learn from the examples of others and that we would not break up.

For me after marriage, some important things have been communication, patience, learning each other’s love language, and living as individuals and as a couple.

Our relationship would have been immensely difficult if I had refused to learn or stay current with Sign Language. Also, Bryan is a very patient and helpful person; I am not always so patient. We have similar love languages and we both rank quality time as important to us.

However, I do think what helps as well is that we both have lives separate from our relationship as husband and wife. We are disparate in our hobbies and interests–Bryan is into games and movies, and I enjoy reading above any other activity, but we enjoy the spaces in our togetherness and prioritise doing things together like having a monthly date night.

Bryan: Niobe and I were friends before marriage and confided in each other. We went to Eucharistic Adoration before we were in a romantic relationship. During marriage, I learnt patience and self-control and the importance of supporting our family. Compromise is necessary for both of us to improve.