National News

St. Petersburg Diocese Urges Catholics to ‘Take the Pledge’ in Videos

This is an illustration for “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate,” an initiative launched by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to promote civility and respectful dialogue during this presidential election year. (Photo: CNS illustration/courtesy U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) 

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) — It was an elongated production schedule that would have rivaled any James Cameron epic, but the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida, has finally issued a pair of “Civilize It” videos with more than 30 Catholics in the diocese taking part in the civility pledge to have an open mind, open ears and a civil tongue this election season.

Not only did the production schedule rival that of Hollywood, the release date kept getting moved around too — a common occurrence by the film studios in these coronavirus-altered times. The diocese settled on June 30 for the release date, which put it in between the U.S. bishops’ observance of Religious Freedom Week, which ended June 29, and Independence Day.

“We started in November,” said Sabrina Schultz, director of life, justice and advocacy for the diocese. “As it turned out, this project just drug on and on and on.”

Schultz told Catholic News Service in a July 2 phone interview: “We started at a workshop that was put on by our Office for Black Catholic Ministries. … We started filming at one of their workshops because we were looking for diversity.”

She added, “As we were filming, we said to ourselves, ‘You know, we really should be doing this in Spanish.'” There are members of the diocese’s Hispanic Commission in the English-language video — and, of course, in its Spanish-language counterpart. “They often filmed themselves and sent in the video,” Schultz said.

“Our goal was really to get diversity from across the diocese as much as possible,” she added.

In the two videos, viewers can see more than 30 people recite some part of the “Civilize It” pledge. They assembled video taken of participants at various workshops, members of the diocese’s lay pastoral minatory institute, representatives of the diocesan Hispanic Commission and members of the pastoral center staff.

“We wanted to release them at the same time. And at the time we were finishing it up, we weren’t doing any more events,” Schultz said.

“We thought we would have it put together earlier, then the pandemic took its toll,” stalling the assemblage of the video for other, more critical projects, Schultz said. However, that allowed for time to post “Civilize It” resources for the diocesan webpage, and to pass those details along to parishes.

“But then the George Floyd incident happened. We wanted to respond to that. Do we want to release it in the midst of this, or do we wait a little bit longer?” Schultz told CNS. “We also think it dovetails with the racial justice work we’re doing in the diocese. Because we’re having those conversations, too.”

She added, “They wanted to push it to August, the time of the primaries here.” The Florida primary election was moved to Aug. 18 with early voting starting Aug. 8. “But,” Schultz said, “but we’d waited so long already, we’ll just put it out just after the week for religious liberty — kind of couch it between that and the Fourth of July.”

Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg appears at the beginning and end of both videos. Having the bishop’s buy-in on the project was invaluable, Schultz said. “He’s been supportive from the very beginning, but we wanted to him to appear,” she added. That, of course, meant finding a time when Bishop Parkes could record his segments.

To see either video on “Pledging Dignity Beyond the Debates,” go to