Increasingly engulfing media influences our life in ways beyond imagination. Media is no more a domain of experts and professionals, everyone around us use and ‘own’ media.
Media bring about crucial changes in society and it significantly influences our religious life. Knowledge about media and its skills become a prerequisite to be a successful missionary and religious today.
Sadly, effects of the media seminars we participate do not last more than a couple of days. Even after the courses and seminars our approaches, strategies, mission and life itself remains unchanged in respect to media. Lack of a strategic formation that integrates media skills may be a prominent reason for this.
Catholic Church’s puritan approach to media had prevented its members creatively using this great force of the society until a couple of decades ago. To some, media is still a cultural force that has to be kept away. Not many may be aware that Church encourages its members including the religious to “encounter media courageously” (Pope Francis, 2013, Address to Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications) as well as to train the religious with a spirit of immediacy and urgency (Inter Mirifica, 15) for the critical use of media. For, the Church is well aware that its apostolates will be ineffective “without the knowledge in communication” (Communio et Progressio, 111).
Secondly, the consecrated people including some of those trained in social communications take an instrumental approach to media which limits them to be preoccupied with establishing media infrastructure as well as paying disproportionate attention to technological aspects. This attitude deters us from focusing on to the content and the core of media ministry of the Church.
Our media and communication efforts shall have the exclusive objective of witnessing to Christ. The challenge of this witnessing is “to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith and of the encounter with Christ.” Therefore, media ministry does not mean inserting “expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile” (45 WCD, 2011) in personal witnessing.
Such a communication ministry is modeled after Jesus’ communication through which we are enabled to ‘giving of self in love’ (CP, 11). Media thus shall become a platform where we communicate the life giving presence of the Trinity to others by re-establishing relationships. It involves healing, education, entertainment, and information sharing. To live each day meaningfully, our liturgical celebrations would become an experience to be shared. The New Media skills may give a different personal experience to create an atmosphere of more profound listening, sharing and interaction.
This is the era of New Media. The idea of new media is different from mass media, which helped sending a limited number of messages to a homogeneous mass audience within a constrained space and time. Whereas new media is a more decentralized media system highly individuated, user friendly, interactive and woven more closely to the fabric of daily life. Examples of new media are the social media (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc), online broadcasting and music, online newspaper, magazine, etc.
The main advantage of new media are: 1) cheaper; 2) handy and smarter; 3) highly interactive; 4) unimaginable reachability.
Social media, for example Facebook, keeps people interactive with relevant personal data available online 24/7 days of their life. There is an equal and reciprocal control over the content and using. Facilitated by Internet your messages are reached to your audience wherever they are and bring your community closer from the corners of the world.
Media in Formation
Let us go back to our pertinent question: why are religious congregations still lagging behind in the area of media? It is because we take an instrumental approach that focus on form rather than content. It is because we think that media is not a business of ‘Me’, but of others who are experts. It is because we have not defined the ‘audience of our mission.’ It is also because we do not have any passion to communicate God’s love.
These attitudes can only be reined if only we could integrate media training in our formation. In order to enter into meaningful encounter with the media friendly young generation as well as to make our mission more salvific, all sisters need to be trained in knowledge and skills of appropriate media. Media and communication shall be understood also as handmaid to other ministries such as education, social apostolates, pastoral work and health ministry. In the previous issues of Cumin we have covered these aspects in relation to media.
We require starting media training from the initial stages of formation itself. The following is a proposal for media and communication training in formation:
Objective of Media Formation
We need to objectify our media formation for the purpose of introducing the dynamics of media and to familiarize with its possibilities. Students shall be encouraged for a media ministry as a way to witness to Christ and extend the Kingdom of God as well as help them develop approaches to integrate media into the daily activities of our mission
Contents of Media Formation
Among the contents theoretical and practical aspects shall be covered. Along with the theological and philosophical dimensions of media sociological and cultural aspects shall be covered. The course shall give sufficient emphasis to technological aspects and its training.
Strategy of Media Formation
Provide emphasis to practical experience along with theoretical foundations. Students shall be led through practical assignments of producing various media content for missionary and pastoral purpose. Media training shall not be isolated and compartmentalized. The information and skills received shall be applied in other disciplines. The media skills shall be employed in regular ministry.
Even if sufficient training is given each of the members shall take personal interest to creatively use media in their mission. To be an efficient media person one needs the habit of reading and writing. Fundamentally one needs to be a critical thinker too. Expressing ones genuine feelings, warm reactions and responses in a community of people with an intention of making the conversation more lively and meaningful is expected of each consecrated religious. Communication of mere words for the sake of handling the community makes a dry community.
Let’s don’t wait more to start our journey through media literacy and assist the society to choose the best. If creativity is where God reveals his presence let us get into that divine experience by being creative through media, an unavoidable tool of our daily life.