One of the first apostles called by Jesus to follow him was Andrew, brother of Simon. Jesus said to them both, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4.19) Simon, of course, became Peter, the first pope. Andrew went on to found the See of Byzantium. Both are worthy models of evangelization, new or otherwise, bravely proclaiming the Good News in foreign lands.
Today, as we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, it is worth reflecting on the nature of that mission. We reside again in “foreign lands.” Our modern world is very similar to that of first century Christianity in that it is no longer a Christian world. What, in fact, makes the New Evangelization “new” is not the message, but the context.
What we know about the world increasingly comes to us filtered by news media, bloggers, Facebook, Twitter and myriad other channels. As such, the message we receive is always presented to us through someone else’s eyes. We have had to become increasingly media savvy to understand the biases, hidden and otherwise, that shape everything we learn about the world.
The Church has long been aware that the Gospel needs to be proclaimed anew to every age, in language that would be understood by the people of each time and place. It is an old hand at encouraging the use of modern media. In our own time, the Church supports the training of talented lay people to become experts in the use of new media so the Gospel continues to reach every generation.
I have been privileged for 18 years to be part of this mission of social communications (a term used in official Church documents to refer to mass media in all its forms). For more than 13 years I was Publisher and Editor of The Catholic Register, Canada’s national English-language newspaper. And for the last five years, I have been Publishing Director here at Novalis, overseeing a talented and creative team devoted to serving the Church through the use of various media, from traditional books to, increasingly, web-based and digital resources.
Another hat I wear is that of President of the Association of Roman Catholic Communicators of Canada. This small but active organization is mandated to help communications professionals working in Catholic institutions across the country to improve their own skills and learn how to effectively marshal new technologies to the aid of proclaiming the Gospel.
Harnessing modern media to the service of the Church is a bit like taming wild horses. They don’t necessarily behave the way you think they would. The world of media is largely unregulated and teeming with an infinite array of actors with different agendas, missions and axes to grind. But, amidst that chaos, there are signs of light.
In Canada, Catholic media outlets are becoming increasingly adept at reaching out to the secular world. Catholic newspapers across Canada, Salt+Light Television, Radio Ville Marie and similar organizations bring sensitive, accurate and in-depth news about the Church and the faith to their audiences that will never be found in mainstream media.
Ensuring that the Church gets its message out clearly and accurately requires, among other things, committed, knowledgeable, faithful and talented experts. St. Andrew would appreciate that.
-Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director