For 65 years, stories taking place around the Diocese of Trenton have been shared through the diocesan newspaper, and now magazine, The Monitor. On this World Communications Day, Catholic media and Pope Francis remind all not to forget the importance of the written word.
For 65 years, stories taking place around the Diocese of Trenton have been shared through the diocesan newspaper, and now magazine, The Monitor. On this World Communications Day, Catholic media and Pope Francis remind all not to forget the importance of the written word.
WASHINGTON – The president of the World Catholic Association for Communication urged the world's bishops as the "chief storyteller" in their diocese to use all media at their disposal to "make known" stories "of faith and hope" and of local Catholic heroes who exemplify Christ's love to give people courage in "difficult times," like this current pandemic.

Catholic media outlets also can provide "basic tools" to the faithful "to spot" false stories, said Helen Osman, who heads the association, also known as SIGNIS, based in Brussels.

She made the comments in a statement issued ahead of World Communications Day, which is May 24. A former diocesan editor and former communications secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Osman is currently a communications consultant for the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops in Austin.

Pope Francis' message for this year's World Communications Day is: "That you may tell your children and grandchildren" (Ex 10:2): Life becomes history."

The Pope "reminds us of the importance of the stories we tell, especially in the midst of the din of media that leave us feeling dislocated," Osman said. "The narratives that we live by must reflect the vision of the interconnectedness of all human life."

SIGNIS is "urging our members to see as a moment of grace this unique passage: Faced with a pandemic, we are called to create a narrative that can change lives and history itself," Osman continued. "With their fellow Catholics and all people of goodwill, they can weave a story worth telling those who come after us, one that will stir their hearts and give them courage when they inevitably face their most difficult times.

"Our Catholic tradition is an ongoing story that must be renewed with each generation," she added.

Osman offered several questions for bishops to reflect on, in hopes they "will be of use to you pastorally" and in telling the story of the Catholic Church. These questions, she said, flow from the Pope's message for World Communications Day and SIGNIS members are reflecting on them as well, she added.

First, she said, Pope Francis "notes that 'not all stories are good stories.' In our time, there are those who seek to exploit others or to confuse so that the very notion of truth is in doubt. Their technological savvy produces damaging false narratives that do great harm."

“What are the basic tools we offer our people to be able to spot these false stories, which spread like a virus themselves?" Osman asked. "And better, how do we tell stories of faith and hope so they become the enduring narrative, the antibody to a plague of deception and lies?"

She said the poor and the marginalized often suffer the most, as they are often exploited.

“If we believe, as the Holy Father says, that the great storyteller became flesh in our human history, then every person has the potential to be a vital character in the story of salvation," Osman stated.

For example, she cited the heroic actions of doctors, nurses and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the actions “of those we often have failed to even notice: sanitation and cleaning workers, grocery clerks and farmworkers. All of them risk their lives to keep us healthy and fed.”

On this point she offered these questions for reflection: "What are the stories in your diocese of these heroes that you can hold up as examples of Christ's love incarnated in your communities? And how do you spread these stories? What media is at our disposal to make them known?"

She continued, "The Pope reminds us that the Holy Spirit writes the story of God's love on the human heart."

"Many of the stories that relate to the experience of people today are told in secular media, printed and otherwise. In some cultures, the role of traditional storytellers serves the same role," Osman said. "In all cases, their power derives from their affirmation of deeper truths of the human condition, especially the enduring strength of love."