Using the power of storytelling to boost the Church was the main message of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s 27th annual World Communications Day on May 8.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, diocesan and parish-based communicators, clergy and guests gathered at Giando’s-on-the-Water, Williamsburg, to share their experiences and learn how they can effectively communicate the Good News in today’s divisive media environment.
A panel from DeSales Media Group, the parent company of The Tablet and NET-TV, guided a discussion on this year’s theme. Panelists included Vito Formica, executive director of news and content development; Len Camporeale, director of marketing and digital; Adriana Rodriguez, director of communications and press secretary; and Father John Gribowich, a member of the staff of DeSales Media.
Some topics the panel discussed: media coverage of the Church, the public’s distrust of the media, the role parishes can play in public discourse about the Church and the use of social media.
Being a Good Storyteller
Father Gribowich said that to be a good storyteller, one must be a good listener. He explained that if Catholics share their vulnerabilities with each other, they will help each other and help the Church to grow.
The diocesan event followed Pope Francis’ announcement of this year’s theme for World Communications Day, taken from the New Testament: “We are members one of another” (Eph 4:25) – From social network communities to the human community. The pope published his remarks on Jan. 24, the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists.
Every year, the Pope establishes a theme for World Communications Day, and dioceses from around the world apply that message locally.
The honoree and keynote speaker was Msgr. Sean Ogle, V.F., pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria, who received the St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award.
In his May 11 “Put Out Into The Deep” column in The Tablet, Bishop DiMarzio said that Msgr. Ogle is “perhaps one of the most gifted historians in the diocese” and “seems to know our history from long ago to the present so well and tells some of the best stories about the diocese that he has ever heard.”
Msgr Ogle, in his keynote address, said that he uses digital tools to evangelize in his diverse parish. He also said that he collaborates with the diocesan and local secular media for media coverage leverage and stressed the importance of keeping his parish’s website up to date.
“I believe one of the most powerful tools for evangelization a parish has is to simply let the people know what we already do,” Msgr. Ogle said. “The problem is, in my limited experience, parishes are fairly good about publicizing upcoming events, but once they’re done, no further mention is made of them except the thank you to the workers and maybe in the next parish anniversary book.
“I’m very happy with our parish committee. They determined that we could use digital and traditional media to make a record of what we live as a parish in pictures and in video of the faith, fervor and the joy of Catholics doing Catholic things.”
At Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Neida C. Martinez is the person behind the scenes, helping to manage an internal communications team that uses Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to promote the parish and its activities.
“I think we have a lot to tell,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of different groups.. Vocations intersect with communications. Communications intersects with our Mother’s prayer group to promote them to do everything. Everything intersects with our religious educations program. Everything intersects with one another.”
She said that it was a combination of Msgr. Ogle’s leadership and her team’s passion for telling their parish’s diverse stories that continues to propel them forward while promoting the Good News.
During her pastor’s speech, Martinez took out her mobile device in order to broadcast Msgr. Ogle’s keynote message as a Facebook Live event.
So while Msgr. Ogle shared his communications strategy with the bishop and guests, his parishioners were simultaneously sharing his message to viewers who were plugged in at the exact time.
“Collaboration with talented,willing laity is crucial,” Msgr. Ogle said. “You’ll find people willing to do that.”