Challenges Confronting Our Engagement with the Digital World

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on October 8, 2013

in Pope Francis, social media

Pope FrancisThe Pontifical Council for Social Communications released a statement on September 30 that Pope Francis has chosen the theme of “encounter” for his first World Communications Day message.  According to the council statement,

The Message for World Communications Day 2014 will explore the potential of communication, especially in a networked and connected world, to bring people closer to each other and to co-operate in the task of building a more just world.

Traditionally, the Pope releases his message for World Communications Day on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.

While we face many challenges in engaging the digital culture for mission, it is hopeful to see that Church leaders are recognizing its potential and exploring how we can make better use of it.

In the video below Catholic News Service looks at the September 2013 plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and the state of church communications today.

The speakers on the video touch on the cultural context of communications, the fact that we are an Incarnational church, isolation vs. relationship, and that the digital culture is a means to an end.

I really like what the last speaker, Basilian Father Thomas Rosica said: “ We have to re-think how we are going to get the message out…It does require strategy.”

What do you think of Pope Francis’ theme of encounter for the 2014 World Communications Day?

Did anything in this video stand out for you?

Photo of Pope Francis from Church of England and Wales via Flickr

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Elise October 8, 2013 at 7:53 am

The message in this 3:11 clip? Communication is about men speaking to and about men.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 8, 2013 at 8:29 am

Elise, it is unfortunate that all the speakers were men–but I did not think that their remarks were restricted to and about men. I think they were discussing the challenges confronting all in ministry who want to bring the Gospel message to the digital culture. However, it would be good to let CNS know that they need to include women in their presentations. You can do that in the comments on this video on YouTube.

Jean Ponder Soto October 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

Thanks again for being up to the minute on what we should pay attention to. I was also struck by the advice to find strategies on getting the message out to multiple social media venues. It is not very helpful to assume that social media cannot engender real relationships. The Pope’s theme of “encounter” points to the possibility of genuine connection.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 8, 2013 at 10:51 am

I agree, Jean. One does not have to be in a personal face-to-face relationship to influence another, to witness to our faith, to enter into dialogue or answer questions, but we do have to be available to people where they are. I, too, was pleased to see that “encounter” will be the Pope’s theme. Encounter is a meaningful meeting and those of us who minister on the Internet know that these digital encounters can be fruitful.

Jack Cooper October 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I connected with the phrase about needing a strategy for all the different media. It’s not enough just to have a parish website and Facebook and twitter. You have to know what your strategy is for each of them, and then to have the resources required to keep up each account.

Dion October 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

I am grateful for your alerting us to the theme of Pope Francis’ First World Communication Day message. I viewed and listened to the video and now am feeling proud of our Holy Father’s naming “encounter” as the theme. To me “encounter” connotes openness, mutuality, respect, willingness to learn and be changed, inclusivity, a finding God in all things, capacity for naming and claiming what is for the sake of the kingdom.

I love the final paragraph of the “Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication” written in 1971 which comments on “Inter Mirifica,” document of Vatican II: “The People of God walk in history. As they – who are essentially both communicators and recipients – advance with their times, they look with confidence and even with enthusiasm to whatever the development of communications in a space age may have to offer.”
Thanks much, Susan.
Sr. Mary Dion Horrigan, SND

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Dion, Thanks for the quote. It says so much!

Sr. Angela Ann October 20, 2013 at 11:49 am

The thoughts above reminds me of Pope Francis’ homily to Catechists in September.

He introduces catechists to their primary role of ‘keeping the memory of God alive’. In describing a Catechist he says: “(Catchists) are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. He asks: “Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?” This question demands that those who spend quality time in cyberspace must answer, as well. This is our challenge as missionary disciples in a digital civilization! We are not about technology, per se but about being sentinels of the memory of God in a rapidly expanding digital agora!

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