Communicating hope and trust in our times (PE nr. 1081)

Gisela Schreyer, smnda

At a time when many people use social media and the snappy language of the text message, the written press seems a bit outdated. I, myself, am totally immersed in the digital planet. I often feel ill-at-ease at the rapid flow of information. I like to see things in black and white. I like to develop a thought, word by word as I read through the lines, weighted words, chosen, appropriate to the given context.

As a editor, I made my first steps in journalism in the German missionary magazine, kontinente, the product of a consortium of more than 20 Missionary Institutes and then for the last ten years under the direction of missio Aachen. During my five years with kontinente, initially as an apprentice and then as the editor, I appreciated the written press as a way of speaking about the mission, of the Missionary Church, of our congregation and the values held by other people. Its appearance six times a year gave us the time to prepare well and deepen our research.

In Burundi from 2000 to 2002, I collaborated with the diocesan newsletters of Gitega and Ngozi. With the pastoral office of Gitega, we held a number of training sessions for laypeople who became “the parish correspondents” for the Church-family newsletter. Our motto was taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, “If there is need, say a kind and helpful word, that it may impart grace to those who listen to you” (Eph, 4, 29).

Nowadays, as the editor of the MSOLA magazine, Partage/Sharing Trentaprile, our aim is to promote an esprit de corps, pass on news of our lives, and introduce different generations to one another and to reflect as a congregation.

In my role as Archivist, I can draw on an invaluable treasure of publications of “Presse – Mission” such as the meetings of the Missionaries of Africa family (WF and WS) at Thy-le-Château in 1982 and to help researchers.

Rereading the key documents of the Church on Social Communications, the decree of Vatican II, Inter Mirifica (1963), the Pastoral Instruction, Communio et Progressio (1971) and Aetatis novae (1992), I find principles that are still valid today (and for any publication):

  • The great need to form the conscience of producers and users.
  • An appeal for discernment regarding what helps and what injures because of dishonesty.
  • Provide the Catholic media with a place and voice for balanced information and critical dialogue

The Church considers that the written press has an important role to play: the written press “can go into detail when reporting the news. It can also comment on the news and, without boring the reader, interpret it in a way that makes the readers think for themselves. It is a most useful complement to the audio-visual means of communication. It is a most effective means of stimulating people’s critical faculties and of helping them form their own opinions. Since it is able to deal with such a variety of material and since it can so admirably encourage people to think, it has prime place in the promotion of social dialogue. (Communio et Progressio. 136).

“That part of the Catholic press which is of general interest publishes news and opinions and background articles about all the aspects and problems and worries of modern life.” (Communio et Progressio 138).

In a talk on ethics in the media, Ulrich Wilhelm, the CEO of Bayerischer Rundfunk a public-service radio and television broadcaster, based in Munich, pleaded for ‘constructive journalism’ which now seems to be under threat from four tendencies namely: the individualisation of information, the flow of data, the speed of technology and, consequently, the loss of the ethical parameters and the responsibility for what is offered to the general public.

In the face of these tendencies, we need a new code of conduct for journalists and even an anthropological reflection. We need a new vision of the human person in society. What do we want with the information we receive, what do we want to do with it?

Facing these exigencies, we, who write for our institutes or for the friends of the mission and for the general public, can take on the role of translators which allows our readers to become aware of a reality that can sometimes be described as fluid and which can be hard to grasp and difficult to understand the direction it is taking.

And we do need a sense of where it is going! Because we always try to evaluate the reality that surrounds us, we cannot judge things once and for all. Our role could be that of an interpreter of reality in the light of the Gospel and of the teaching of the Church. To do this, it seems to me that the written press is the best way.

Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of Social Communications in 2017, proposes the following theme or motto, “Communicating hope and trust in our time” as the key to reading the signs of the times.

Sr Gisela Schreyer, SMNDA

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