COMMUNICATING HOPE & TRUST IN OUR TIMES – Symposium to mark World Communications Day 2017
May 8, 2017
St. Paul’s Institute of Communication Education (SPICE) in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Bombay organised a symposium-cum-workshop, ‘Communicating Hope And Trust In Our Times’, on May 7, 2017 at the SPICE Institute, Bandra.
The event commenced with an opening prayer and an action hymn, after which Fr. Renold Pascal invited the eminent guests – His Lordship Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, Fr. Myron Pereira SJ, Fr. Nigel Barrett, Fr. Dominic D’Silva SSP and Mr. Anand Castelino – to light the samai. Through a video, the audience was introduced to SPICE’s summer course (‘Communicating Christ to Millennials’), and Fr. Nigel then declared both the symposium and the summer course open.
Fr. Dominic, Director of SPICE, briefed the audience on the history of World Communications Day, and cited examples of real-time relevant affairs, like that of the Nirbhaya case. He talked about the various aspects of communication with regards to Christian life – communication with God, communication with the Word of God, communication with one’s personal charism, interpersonal communication and communication as ‘the Trinitarian Model’. He used excerpts of Pope Francis’ messages on communication, declaring him the true model of communicating hope and trust in our time, and how we ought to follow his example.
The first part of the event – the Panel Discussion – commenced with Fr. Renold inviting to the dais Ms. Carol Andrade, the Moderator. Ms. Andrade introduced the three speakers – Bishop Allwyn D’Silva, Mr. Anand Castelino and Fr. Myron Pereira SJ –who would present ‘communication’ from the perspectives of Ecology and Environment, the Christian Family and the Church respectively.
The first speaker, Bishop Allwyn, brought to the audience’s attention the issues of climate change and global warming worldwide and, specifically, in India. With every step forward, there is a trade-off with yet another crucial component of the environment; humans are thus selfish in their actions. He talked about Pope Francis’ encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ – a wake-up call to people around the world, urging them to change the “hopeless” state they are living in –and the evidence of its impact in worldwide movements bringing about environmental change. His Lordship stressed the need for us, individually, to examine how we can bring about change starting at a micro level, and then moving on to a macro level – i.e. how we can green our own institutions and concretely save the planet. The only chance we have of communicating hope today is by living in a more hopeful state; and the movement from “hopeless” to “hope” lies in our hands.
Next up was Mr.Anand Castelino. He started by stressing the importance of good communication – how it uplifts and builds a person – as opposed to the harmful effects of critical/negative communication. Citing his personal experiencesand echoing the Pope’s examples, he talked about the family as a place to learn communication – especially positive communication – as one is exposed to a wide range of relationships and learns to accept and forgive the other repeatedly, a crucial aspect of communication.
The Holy Father gives the Biblical example of Mother Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth to depict how the womb is the starting point of all communication – each of us have had our first experience with the world through the womb – with the reassuring sound of the mother’s heartbeat providing hope to the unborn child. From that point, to the many other stages during our lives when we/our family members go through rough times and moments of failure, it is our duty to communicate hope and build trust, to never give up and constantly motivate. Mr. Castelino also underlined the significance of non-verbal communication – parents imparting values to their children by example.
Fr. Myron Pereira, the third panelist, began by addressing what he perceived to be concerns arising from the previous speakers’ speeches. Explaining ‘hope’ as that which sees a dismal presence against a background of radiance arising from faith, he encouraged the audience to look to the Holy Father as an apt symbol of hope, not just for Christians, but for people all around the world. He referred to instances of thePope’s actions depicting mercy, compassion and understanding. Pope Francis has himself sacrificed better living conditions and brought himself down to the level of the poor and the marginalised, in order to welcome them into the Church. That being said, Fr. Pereira concluded with a question for the audience to ponder over: do we, the Church, inspire hope and trust, or do we onlytalk about it?
After briefly reiterating and adding to the main points conveyed by the three speakers, Carol Andrade threw open the discussion to the audience, so that they could share their views and ask questions. The main takeaway from the interactive session that ensued was the importance of the Papal Encyclicals– why it is imperative for each one of us to not just be made aware of the Church’s stance on various issues, but also communicate the message to others, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
The second half of the Symposium – the workshop by the AMCF-CCC – began at 2pm with a game, which, along with being interactive and keeping the audience on their toes, did well to educate the participants about the key issues that arise in communication – the ‘noise’, which represents the internal and external factors that come in the way of sending and receiving a message; and the fact that the messages conveyed in the game were more critical and negative, highlighting the need to change our manner of communication to being more positive and hopeful.
The participants were then invited to give their own responses on the kinds of ‘noise’ they face in their respective parishes and localities. Some of the issues that were brought up were: inauthentic messages and the subsequent quelling of rumours; difficulties faced in helping people understand the effectiveness and benefits of communication; discerning what is actually relevant to communicate to the target audience;no well-developed media/technology for communication compelling one to rely on archaic means, making the process redundant; the hierarchy of groups created in order to make sure messages spread far and wide is counterproductive as they only reach select groups of people.
Fr. Nigel Barrett addressed these issues and brought up other relevant ones – particularly the lack of dynamism/enthusiastic spiritual directors to take things forward in the parish communication cells – and with the help of a video, explained why it was not just important, but also the responsibility of the Church, to have active communication cells that would help spread the Gospel message, and allow for a greater interaction between happenings in the Parishes in the Archdiocese. The latter would provide inspiration and impetus for more vibrant parish communities.
‘Inter Mirifica’ and ‘Aetatis Novae’ – the outcome of Vatican II– direct the Universal Church to incorporate ‘Social Communications’ in the Pastoral Plan, and provide model guidelines. Bearing in mind the primary objective in setting up the World Communications Day, Fr. Nigel, via a presentation, provided tips and guidelines for the implementation of Parish Communication Cells – the reasons for their existence, target audience, scope and coverage (vis-a-vis the various social media platforms), resource persons required and the general rules and ethics to be followed.
This session was followed by distribution of the Liturgy for Communications Sunday (28th May 2017) to representatives of the parishes.
Fr. Renold then called on His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, to deliver the Keynote Address to the participants. Recognising both the positive and negative aspects of different media of communication, the Cardinal stated that what matters most is how we choose to use them and what purpose we serve to fulfil through them.
His Eminence paid tribute to the Holy Father, Pope Francis for being the perfect role model, communicating not just by words – as is evidenced through his active presence on various social media platforms – but also by his actions. The Cardinal advised all present that any communication undertaken ought to be backed up by ethics – principles of morality, justice and charity, in order to effectively communicate hope and trust in the world today. Communication lacking any of these will result in confusion, chaos and hinder the growth of society.
In his engaging discourse, Cardinal Gracias used personal anecdotes and his experiences to illustrate the points he wished to make. In conclusion, His Eminence urged the participants of the Symposium to communicate hope and trust to the youth,who are seeking answers, by adopting the same means of communication that they do.
On that note, the event was brought to a close with a Vote of Thanks by Fr. Renold to the speakers, participants, organisers and volunteers who made the event a success.
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