CZELUSNIAK, MARY ELLEN (14 Oct. 1935 - 23 Sep. 2020) was a proud deaf woman who ministered to the Catholic hearing impaired community of Cleveland. One of three siblings, Czelusniak was born to Edward Martin and Catherine McDonnell Kenneley.

Growing up in the HOUGH neighborhood of Cleveland, Czelusniak attended Alexander Graham Bell School for the deaf, beginning at age three, in order to learn to speak. As an adult, she attended night classes at CUYAHOGA COMMUNITY COLLEGE to receive a certification in its Mental Health program. 

In 1972, Czelusniak began a life of service by volunteering at ST. AUGUSTINE CHURCH, a parish where almost half of the parishioners had a disability. She worked primarily with deaf children by teaching them lessons about the Catholic faith and helping to organize a deaf choir for teenagers. Czelusniak frequently promoted creativity in her young students by presenting her original poems to them in sign language.

Czelusniak’s commitment to service would lead to her hiring in 1988 as the first deaf pastoral worker for Catholic Charities in the United States. She helped form an Exposition for the Deaf to allow deaf individuals to showcase their talents and qualifications for employment.  She also worked as secretary for the Cleveland Catholic Deaf Center. She was a member of the International Catholic Deaf Association, National Catholic Office for the Deaf Pastoral Workers, Northeast Ohio Society for the Deaf, and St. Augustine Deaf Seniors. For her service, she was honored with the Irish American Archive Society’s WALKS OF LIFE AWARD in 2009.

Mary Ellen was married to Boleslav “Buddy” Czelusniak from 26 April 1954 until his death in July of 1972. Together, they had four children: Buddy, Joe, Mary Anne Finnerty, and Angela Gecewich. Czelusniak passed away on 23 September 2020 at the age of 84 and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brook Park, Ohio.


Daniel Brennan


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