Schott Communities' History

The Archdiocese of Miami ministry to persons who are deaf began in 1959 when Father Laurence Conway began to offer a monthly interpreted liturgy for this population. For several years the ministry was strictly religious.


Additional religious services and social events were possible when Father Gabriel O'Reilly joined Father Conway in 1968. Ministry to persons who are deaf was affected by 2 significant events during the 1960's. First, persons in South Florida who are deaf organized themselves into a visible unit and joined the International Catholic Deaf Association as a branch. At the same time migration to Florida increased the number of persons who are deaf, many of whom are not Catholic. Regardless of religious affiliation all persons who are deaf were invited and attended the socials hosted by Father Conway and Father O'Reilly. Through organization and increased numbers persons who are deaf became an active force in South Florida, seeking opportunities for education, socialization and spiritual growth.


Father Jim Vitucci, who had been assisting Father O'Reilly, and Sister Conleth Brannan were asked to serve as the primary ministers and church representatives to persons who are deaf. Father Jim and Sister Connie began their ministry as traveling ministers. They moved from parish to parish to provide interpreted religious services; they helped coordinate social events, and they ministered to the personal needs of the deaf community.
Schott Communities began to emerge as visible ministry to persons who are deaf in 1985, when Joseph J. Schott Jr. happened to attend a signed liturgy at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Miami Beach where Father Jim was then based. Joseph Schott was inspired by the experience of that liturgy and took an interest in the ministry. He asked Father Jim where persons who are deaf gathered together as a community to pray and to socialize. Father Jim jokingly replied, "In my car."

Within days Joseph Schott visited the Archbishop McCarthy of Miami and offered to build or buy a multipurpose center for persons who are deaf. Father Jim was commissioned to find a site that could serve the purpose. After 8 months of careful search and evaluation, Father Jim and Sister Connie located the Landmark Apostolic Church, a 5-acre parcel of land in Unincorporated Fort Lauderdale. They recognized the home for their ministry, so in 1985 the property was purchased by Joseph Schott and deeded to the Archdiocese..
In 1994 Father Jim Vitucci was assigned pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines; he continued to serve as Pastoral Director of the Center, but Jack Green was hired as the Executive Director to manage the agency. Sister Conleth Brannan continued as the Director of Center programs.

The heart of Schott Communities is St. Jude Chapel. Services are celebrated with the members of Schott Communities, their families and friends, and other residents of the surrounding community who are not deaf or disabled.

Schott Communities recognizes and understands the deep concern of families of persons who are deaf or disabled when they look into the future. How will their loved 1 who is deaf or disabled survive when parents or siblings are gone? Who will attend to her or him? In response to this concern the Board of Directors commissioned Jack Green to build 2 residential facilities: a state-of-the-art home for developmentally disabled women and a 6-apartment complex for persons who are deaf or disabled. The residences were dedicated in 2000.

Many of the people who attend the Center are not Catholic. Father Jim explained, "We have never striven to serve only Catholics. They are all God's people, the work of God's hands, regardless of their faith." Father Jim died in 2002, but he bequeathed Schott Communities with a profound commitment to service and advocacy for persons who are deaf or disabled.

Margaret Johnson replaced Mr. Jack Green as Executive Director in July, 2001. She focused on the quality and scope of the ministry, as well as on raising the visibility of Schott Communities in the area.

In the course of her 6 years, Margaret helped to stabilize the financial situation of the agency, added new programs, established a grants program, expanded fundraising capacity, and secured agency certification through Broward County. Her intention to increase the agency's visibility in the community was evidenced in the success of the fundraising efforts and increased participation in agency events.

Margaret was succeeded as Executive Director by Frank Casale on July 9, 2007.

Through a combination of his leadership, management and fundraising skills, Frank Casale strived to directly affect the lives of our very special population.

Frank took the mission of Schott and applied it to the expansion of our programs; adding the COMPASS Saturday/5 day Program, 5 art classes, the inclusion of a sanctioned 5K Run to our annual Walkathon (now the 5K Run/Walk and Roll), a Deaf Networking Social Group, Dance Mobility Group, and the opening of our Schott Art Gallery.

Ileana Ramirez-Cueli joined the agency on March 18, 2013. Although the expansion of our physical plant remains a goal, her current focus is on the continued financial stability and growth of the Schott Communities.

The Schott Center is now a self-supporting agency where income is derived through Annual Fund, grants, special events, program revenue and donor-designated and estate gifts. She continues to look forward to the challenges that lay ahead.

Ileana is addressing the needs of the deaf and disabled community by striving to expand programs and services in the Enrichment Center, increasing attendance and religious activities at St. Jude Chapel and by continuing to enhance the beautiful campus housing the Group Home and Apartments for this very special population. Your prayers and support will help make a difference in the future success of the Schott Communities for Persons who are Deaf and Disabled.