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St. Philip's ASL interpreter brings service to life for deaf

St. Philip's ASL interpreter brings service to life for deaf

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Alicia Moylan stood before a grateful couple and signed the entire Sunday service at St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church.

Moylan, 26, began volunteering Sunday as an American Sign Language interpreter at the church's 9 a.m. service.

She'll volunteer each Sunday this summer at the church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave.

Clifford and Nancy Rowley, who are both deaf, watched intently as Moylan interpreted the hymns, readings and sermon using her hands and her facial expressions and postures of the body, including signing "Jesus" by taking her fingers and tapping the palms of her hands to signify the nails on the cross.

"It's not about me," she said of her decision to volunteer. "I get to learn, but I get to be there for others."

The Rowleys appreciate Moylan's presence on the west side of the church at the front.

The couple moved to Tucson from New Jersey in 2003 and immediately started looking for a place to worship.

They were active members of a New Jersey church that provided an interpreter, but their search in Tucson to find a parish that offered ASL interpretation wasn't so easy, and the Rowleys were ready to stop looking.

"It was very frustrating," Clifford Rowley said, using Moylan as an interpreter. "We tried many churches and just gave up."

St. Philip's offered an interpreter for the couple last Christmas Eve and provided one on other occasions as well.

Now they'll have Moylan on a regular basis this summer.

"It's awesome," Clifford Rowley signed.

Anne Strong, a deacon at the church, helped arrange for the interpreter.

"We want to reach out and be open, and Alicia is helping us do that," the Rev. Blake Hutson said. "We are fortunate to have her among us and to have her ministry be a part of our ministry now."

Moylan, who was raised Catholic, started studying ASL three years ago after finding little to like about her job as a massage therapist.

She flipped through a Pima Community College class catalog and decided to try a sign-language class.

"I took one class and absolutely feel in love," she said.

She's studying linguistics at the University of Arizona and is less than two years away from earning an ASL Interpreter Certificate from Pima.

"For a student, she did a great job," Rowley said in sign language.

Sunday was challenging for Moylan, but she is happy to have the opportunity to practice ASL.

She practices the hymns and readings in advance, and receives the preacher's sermon about 10 minutes before the start of the service.

"This is the hardest form of interpreting," she said after the service. "A lot of terms are very different. It's very fast-paced. We don't talk like that anymore. The names and places are very difficult."

Contact reporter Andrea Rivera at or 807-8430.


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