My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This week, as the Diocese celebrates its 22nd annual World Communications Day Conference, let me briefly reflect on the Second Vatican Council’s “The Decree on the Media of Social Communications.” The Latin title for this document, Inter Mirifica, means “Among the Wonderful.” It is one of the first two documents published by the Council, which clearly signifies the understanding of the Council Fathers that the world in which they lived was dominated by media. At that time, there was no Internet or social media like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, but the Council Fathers understood that in order to preach the Gospel, they had to meet people where they were.
Today, the Church must continue to participate in this new and ever-changing world. We know that in order to reach people, we must use the communication outlets seemingly everyone is using. With Facebook, for instance, I have found it to be a wonderful way to connect with people in our Diocese. How quickly social media is changing our lives from not just how we receive information but also how we communicate it.
The pastoral activity of the Church must also reflect the use of this modern media. This is no longer inclusive of only press, film, radio and television; it now includes social media and media sharing sites like LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Blogspot, to name a few. The Church must be where people learn and receive their information, where they are influenced regarding their moral responsibilities, where we as a Church can make all means available to be present to the faithful and the not so faithful.
In our Diocese, I point to the DeSales Media Group, which oversees our weekly newspaper, The Tablet, serving Brooklyn and Queens since 1908; Nuestra Voz, our Spanish-language newspaper; our television station, The NET, which broadcasts family-friendly, original shows; CTN, which serves the educational and spiritual needs of the children in our diocesan schools for almost 50 years; and the DeSales Digital Network, which produces 21 websites delivering Catholic news and entertainment.
The oversight of DeSales is given to Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Secretary for Communications. He is ably assisted by the leadership of Art Dignam, CEO, and Ed Wilkinson, Editor of The Tablet and News Director of NET. Our Diocesan Press Secretary is Stefanie Gutierrez, who assists me in responding to media inquiries and directing my own use of the media to further the cause of the Gospel. There are many others at DeSales Media Group who ably assist the leadership, and I take this opportunity to thank each of them for their efforts. Most notably, I would like to bring attention to Currents and its anchor, Liz Faublas. It is the only daily news program in the Nation that brings to us the Catholic perspective on issues of the day, most especially those with moral and religious content.
All of NET’s programming, including Currents, can be seen on www.netny.net, in addition to TimeWarner Cable Channel 97 in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan, and Cablevision Channel 30 in Brooklyn, as well as on Verizon Fios Free On Demand across the U.S. NET can be watched in over 16 million households across the Nation.
On Friday, May 17, our Diocese will celebrate its annual World Communications Day Conference. Each year, our Holy Father gives us a message. For 2013, Benedict XVI reminded us of the importance of the media in our world today in the life of the Church with his message, “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization.”
There has never been a greater need for the work of Evangelization as we communicate God’s love in today’s age that seems dominated by technology. Benedict XVI reminded us that in the digital environment, where loud voices are raised and where sensationalism sometimes can prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. In effect, he says, “Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in ‘a still, small voice’ (I Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God Himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the ‘kindly light’ of faith.”
In following with tradition, the Diocese will honor an individual with the St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award. This year, we honor William McGurn for his outstanding career in journalism and his continued dedication to the values of the Gospel. Mr. McGurn is the editorial page editor of the New York Post, a former Wall Street Journal columnist, and he has previously served as the chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
We also will honor Msgr. James Lisante with the St. Clare Award for Outstanding Family Entertainment for his evangelical role in television and commitment to the Catholic faith. Msgr. Lisante hosts “Close Encounters,” a Catholic television program.
Other speakers include Sister Helena Burns, Daughters of St. Paul, who will speak on being Catholic in a digital world; Brandon Vogt, author of “The Church and the New Media” who will speak on spreading Catholicism in a Digital Age; Father James Martin, S.J., and Matthew Warner of Flocknote, will present on Social Media 101; and Arthur Aidala, a legal analyst for Fox News, will serve as master of ceremonies.
Every excursion into the world of social communications is a step into the deep. The reverberations are truly wide and lasting. Whatever appears on the Internet may be there for centuries to come. And so it is with the message of the Gospel. It has endured for over 2,000 years and must endure well into the future using every means available for the dissemination of the truth of this message.
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