The paper shows up on your doorstep. Your cell phone buzzes. A notification dings. A mail service drops off your new book, the “great deal” you found at midnight, or your week’s worth of pre-selected meals. Communication technology is constantly evolving. Is your church keeping up?
As communications media advanced at lightening speeds, the Second Vatican Council issued the decree Inter Mirifica on media and communications. Since the 1960s, World Communications Day has been an annual celebration of communications media throughout the Catholic Church. This year, we celebrate on May 13th, the Sunday before the great communication landmark of Church history — Pentecost.
Communication Is Essential to the Gospel
Jesus lived in a particular time and place, and hardly traveled more than 100 miles from his hometown. How did Christianity become established in every country in the world, with over two billion believers 2,000 years later? In short, communication. Paul wrote letters. Missionaries traveled on foot, horseback, and by boat over thousands of miles to proclaim the Gospel. Medieval saints preserved the Scriptures in illuminated manuscripts. Religious orders and saints operated printing presses for religious magazines, devotional books, and catechisms. The pope tweets. The word “Gospel” means “good news.” From the earliest apostles to today’s everyday disciples, we have good news to communicate to the world.
The Pace of Modern Life
What once took months over land and sea can now be shot across the globe in an instant. The emergence of fiercely competitive technology companies drives innovation but can overwhelm individuals and lead to murky ethical conflicts. On the positive side, the opportunities for harnessing technology abound. There are platforms for organizing your data, working together as a team, connecting with old friends, sharing memories, finding your ancestors, creating visual and audio art, staying aligned with goals, and accessing encyclopedias of information. Over 3,000 apps are available for download in the Apple store. Rather than a retreat from the world, the Catholic Church looks at our daily realities and says, “How can we proclaim the Gospel here?”
How Does your Parish Communicate?
Every parish communicates on a daily and weekly basis. This World Communications Day, take some time to assess how you communicate and why. Here are some thoughts to get you started.
• Use Diverse Mediums. With the evolving pace of technology, different demographics in your parish will use different mediums of communication. The church bulletin, verbal announcements, email, and social media are all necessary vehicles for invitation and information.
• Seek Expert Input. Each form of communication has different strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. One person at the parish may not have the expertise to use all your communication platforms effectively. Consult experts in each of the areas — graphic designers for the bulletin, parishioners with public speaking backgrounds for the announcements, marketers and writers for the emails, and young “digital natives” for the social media. Offer ways for your parishioners to use their gifts. This is an excellent opportunity stewardship!
• Engage with Tone. Words have power. Construct sentences, select adjectives, and use punctuation with care. Once you’ve written something, ask yourself: “How would the average parishioner receive this message?” Communication has the power to invite and engage. It also has the ability to be dull and repetitive, causing attention to wander, eyes to glaze over, and your meaning to be lost. Communication has the power to anger and divide. It also has the power to captivate people’s attention and lead them to Jesus!
To read Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day, visit the Vatican website.