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home : from the bishop : from the bishop February 21, 2019

Beginning a new chapter in social communications
Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

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We live in a world that is dominated by ever-evolving forms of media which have become an integral part of how we communicate with one another and the very language we speak.

 More than 50 years ago, the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had no idea of what such words as “tweet,” “share,” “like” and “tag” would someday come to mean. Yet, they anticipated the function of these digital media techniques brilliantly when they wrote “Inter Mirifica,” their landmark decree calling upon the Church to use media and communications methods to spread the message of salvation. In this document, the council fathers created a blueprint that would guide the use of media in whatever forms they are available well into the future.

 In the decree promulgated Dec. 4, 1963, the council fathers wrote: “All the children of the Church should join, without delay and with the greatest effort in a common work to make effective use of the media of social communication in various apostolic endeavors, as circumstances and conditions demand.

 “The laity, too, who have something to do with the use of these media, should endeavor to bear witness to Christ, first of all by carrying out their individual duties or office expertly and with an apostolic spirit, and, further, by being of direct help in the pastoral activity of the Church – to the best of their ability through their technical, economic, cultural and artistic talents.”

 Because of the advent of social media networks, the reality today is that we all have access to very powerful and far-reaching forms of media; we all bear the responsibility to use these media in the way that the council fathers aspired.

 With this important responsibility that we all share in mind, I convened a committee last year to study evolving forms of digital media and to recommend ways that they should be utilized by the diocesan community in the service of the New Evangelization. They concluded their work this past summer and submitted a set of recommendations.

 Essentially, those recommendations center on these key needs: 

1) The development of digital content that will be effective in catechesis, faith formation and evangelization efforts.  

2) Training and collaborating among Chancery staff on the use of digital media to increase the impact of their work. 

3) Provision of resources, training and consultation to our local parish and Catholic school communities on the use of digital media in evangelization and communications efforts.

 4) Ongoing enhancement of the Diocese’s own digital presence through the expanded use of video; web and social media sites, and mobile apps to expand the outreach and impact of its communications initiatives.

 I am establishing a working group made up of key Chancery staff and individuals from our local communities to move forward on the recommendations. I have asked Rayanne Bennett, the Diocese’s Executive Director of Communications, to coordinate this work, which will begin early in the new year.

We are fortunate in this Diocese to have well-established and award-winning media in our diocesan newspaper, The Monitor,  our radio and television programming, and our special video projects, all of which continue to broaden the Diocese’s reach and deepen our impact through the utilization of new technologies.  Likewise, we have a good foundation in digital media with our diocesan website and our social media strides.  But, in keeping with the mandate to develop social communications, we cannot become complacent; we must be responsive and pro-active as opportunities advance every day.  

I ask all of our leaders – here in the Chancery, as well as in our parishes and our Catholic schools – to say “yes” to the call of “Inter Mirifica” and all the Church statements on social communications that have come after it – to “join, without delay and with the greatest effort in a common work to make effective use of the media of social communication in various apostolic endeavors, as circumstances and conditions demand.”

 The very nature of social communications requires that we connect with and support one another in our shared mission. I urge all of the faithful to prayerfully consider how you can support and contribute to this Digital Media and New Evangelization initiative, and share it among the people with whom you live and work.

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