A Field Hospital in the Digital Universe

Lia O'Hara, Communications Coordinator / Social Media & Website Social Media & Website

Parish staff and communicators were in for a real treat when they attended the 2017 Parish Communications Workshop at the Pastoral Centre. Fr. Thomas Rosica was the keynote speaker, sharing wisdom and reflections on his digital media ministry at Salt & Light TV.

After Bishop McGrattan led us in prayer, 60 participants from all over the diocese listened attentively to the keynote and breakout sessions. We learned many things about social media including: best practices, practical tips such as writing skills, creating quality videos and graphics on a budget, and tips on how to make an memorable impression with a branding strategy.

While these are all essential tools for digital communicators, Fr. Rosica’s keynote session reminded us that the one essential image we should keep in mind is that our digital media ministries are like a “field hospital in the digital universe,” a phrase he borrowed from Pope Francis.

Fr. Rosica explained that the digital world is a real battlefield where many wounded souls are taking part in, or are the victim of character assassination, online bullying, and slander. Many of these actions are even done in the name of defending the faith. As Pope Francis wants us to uphold the truth with love, Fr. Rosica urged us to stay away from quick and instant responses in the digital world, and that “no matter how hasty, undigested, and unreflective the responses are from our audience, our patient listening must always triumph.”

Parish communicators are indeed field hospital workers ready for deployment, sent to build bridges for those who are wounded, and to facilitate real encounters with each other, and with Christ. As Pope Francis encouraged us in his 2016 World Communication Day message, “… our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.”

Being authentic in our online social interactions means that we should reflect the spirit of our faith in our Internet postings, including a commitment to justice, peace, honesty, and transparency, with a gracious, kind style.

So the real question for parish communicators is not how to use the slickest technology for vocation promotion, ministries, parish life, school, worship, or to be relevant and to appeal to the younger generation. Fr. Rosica wants us to ask this question instead: “Does the use of new media serve to deepen our attentiveness to the presence of God, to the risen Christ, to the Living Spirit, to the community gathered about us, and to the world in which we are called to minister?” Do we embody Christ’s love in our digital ministry, not simply to be connected but to grow into true encounters with each other?

Fr. Rosica reminded all of us to continue to be inspired by Pope Francis who communicates with both his words and actions: “Let us learn from him how to model this badly needed kindness, goodness, mercy and joy to a wounded world and broken humanity around us.”

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