Kate Crohan is blind. She is also a woman of deep faith. A resident of Massachusetts, Kate sings in her church choir, lectors during masses, and serves on its parish council. Kate is a teacher with degrees in sociology and anthropology working with the visually impaired at the Perkins School for the Blind. Kate was recently a guest on the Feminine Genius Podcast, which celebrates Catholic femininity. There she talked about her childhood, her education, her career path and her role as ambassador to the Xavier Society for the Blind.
XAVIER SOCIETY FOR THE BLIND
Xavier Society for the Blind began in 1900 as the Xavier “Free Publication” Society. Founded by a Jesuit priest named Father Joseph Stadelman and by a blind teacher named Margaret Coffey. Their mission was, as it remains to this day, to provide the Word of God, and the best of Roman Catholic literature to blind or visually impaired persons of any faith at no charge. Xavier Society continually explores ways to make spiritual materials available to the widest possible audience.
The mission started off on 16th Street in Manhattan, in a single room at what is now Xavier High School. At the time, Xavier Society for the Blind was the only Catholic publishing house to make such writings available to blind people, and all services were provided free of charge, a tradition that continues to this day.
KATE GREW TO BE A TEACHER IN HER CHURCH AND COMMUNITY
Kate grew up in Connecticut with five brothers. “I was very blessed,” she told Rachel of Feminine Genius, “My father had this intuitive understanding that it would be helpful to touch everything, so we’d go for long walks and he would show me leaves and bark on trees.”
Kate lost her sight shortly after being born. She was born prematurely at a time before hospitals knew that oxygen therapy could harm the optic nerve. Within months after being born, she was blind. But that didn’t stop her.
Young Kate went swimming with her family, learned to ride a bike and climb with her brothers, and did many of the things you don’t normally imagine a child with vision loss would do. Kate wasn’t much for being limited.
After college, Kate began working at the Carroll Center for the Blind where she taught the Independent Living Program, which teaches people with vision loss the extra skills they might need to thrive in society. She taught Braille and communication skills. She went on to teach at public school and summer programs. She now works at the Perkins School for the Blind where she teaches technology and Braille.
THE INTERSECTION OF KATE AND XAVIER
As part of Kate’s role as lector at her local church, Kate utilizes the Propers of the mass – the scriptural texts that change weekly with the liturgical calendar. The Xavier Society for the Blind sends these to Kate each month. Kate told Rachel, “I just could not be the lector without them. And the Propers of the mass … the one for March was 111 pages in Braille! So that takes up a ton of room. But it’s beautifully formatted.” The Xavier Society does all the formatting, and the National Braille Press in Boston embosses it using a technique called interpoint so that both sides of the page are in Braille. “I couldn’t lector without it.”
Xavier Society for the Blind has gone to great lengths to provide the faithful with the literature they need for their spiritual journey through blindness. Several years ago, Kate, who is also part of her parish council had need of a book that she couldn’t find. When she reached out to Xavier, they produced the book in Braille so she could access it. “They really, really try to respond to individual requests as best they can,” Kate said.
While Xavier Society began as a publisher of Roman Catholic literature, they have expanded over the years to include spiritual literature from all faiths. They also recently completed converting their entire published catalog into digital-talking-book format, meaning that the Digital Audiobook Services that are part of the National Library Service for the Blind can play all of their content. What’s more, they have also grown beyond their New York City roots to provide Braille and audio publications to the entire United States and 20 other countries.
From the personalized help they provide to people in the Catholic Church, like their ambassador Kate, all the way up to the digitization of their entire spiritual library to nations across the globe, The Xavier Society for the Blind is committed to their blessed mission – providing the Word of God to people of all faiths, for free.