My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
When is a tweet not just any old tweet? When it comes from the Holy Father. It was with profound joy that we recently received a simple but powerful message from the Vatican announcing the creation of a one-stop Internet source for all of the Holy See’s communications. A tweet is a post or status update on Twitter, a social networking service similar to Facebook, that allows you to send out a message, or “tweet,” in 140 characters or less.
“I just launched News.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI,” was what the Holy Father tweeted this past summer.
Needless to say, it was reassuring to learn that the Vatican announced the streamlining of its media operations at the same time that we did so in the Diocese of Brooklyn with the formation of DeSales Media Group, Inc. This new corporation is a result of the comprehensive strategic plan for communications that the diocese launched two years ago.
DeSales Media will be a fully integrated media company whose primary mission is to lead Catholics living in Brooklyn and Queens to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ. Some four years ago, when I appointed Msgr. Kieran Harrington to the position of Vicar for Communications, I asked him to build upon the diocese’s long and distinguished history in the communications field to create a new entity that would take us well into the current century and beyond.
Consider the impressive foundation on which we build DeSales Media: The Tablet is more than 100 years old. We were broadcasting original television programs into the diocese’s schools as early as the 1950s and ’60s. And our Internet operations have helped connect the Church to a new generation of Catholics.
Now is the time to take that combination of talent, experience, and mission and respond to the needs of a new era for the diocese. It is an era filled with possibilities.
At DeSales Media, we are streamlining the operations of the new company in such a way that some overlapping products and services offered by two or more departments will be taken up by one, new team of talented journalists. The advantage here is that we can spend more time developing fresh, original programming and spearheading exciting new projects.
Our diocese, probably more so than any other diocese in America, is a melting pot that continues to change. It is the only completely urban diocese in the nation and is filled with Catholics from every corner of the globe. Many are new to America and they look to the diocese as a primary provider of information. We must be ready to fulfill that role to the best of our abilities.
To be sure, we have already made great strides in responding to that change. NETspañol, the Hispanic ministry outreach serving the diocese, has just launched www.netspanol.net. In September, we launched a monthly community-driven newspaper, Nuestra Voz, serving Hispanics in Brooklyn and Queens. In addition, a weekly television program, Al Dia con Nathalia, will air on NET. This conversational program will include in-studio interviews with Church and community leaders. Topics will address contemporary issues affecting Hispanic Catholics in the diocese and beyond. When the diocese is half Hispanic and a quarter of it is multi-lingual, we have to do more. That’s why we are constantly innovating and re-thinking what we do here.
DeSales Media is the latest and next step in responding to the changing face of the diocese. Not only do the synergies involved in this merger create significant opportunities for efficiencies in a challenging economy, but we are tapping new advertising markets and reaching a new audience. There’s no doubt that DeSales Media is making us a lot richer from a mission standpoint. Yet as we continue to do good, we will also do well.
I remind you that St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalism. In the late 16th century, Calvinist authorities in his region of Switzerland banned people from listening to his preaching, when he was then the cathedral provost in Geneva. Despite the harassment and promise of harsh penalties, he committed himself to what we today call a “free press.” He continued to preach throughout southern Switzerland and win back Calvinists.
He also wrote what many consider to be the first best seller in modern times. “Introduction to a Devout Life” was radical in its day. It suggested that everyone – including the laity – were called to lead a holy life. At the time, many clergy took this book as an affront to their influence. But today we all value St. Francis de Sales’ commentary on the sanctity of every Christian life.
That is why we have put out into the deep with this new media entity in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Just as in St. Francis de Sales’ day, we will commit ourselves to a robust, free press and communication system that serves the ever-changing face of this diocese.