Need a writing getaway?

 

Calling any Catholic who writes in any genre! If you need a getaway to get started or complete a writing project, this retreat looks like the place to go. Writing support and encouragement from committed writers, plus time to write and the possibility of constructive critiques.

Your Word Is My Delight Catholic Writers’ Retreat is held by the Catholic Writers Guild every other year. I have always wanted to go; maybe someday I will be able to! You can find more information here. 

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Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators from SIGNIS, part 2

Below, I continue to share some of the best “tips” from June’s 2017 Signis World Congress, for communicators who seek to build a culture of peace and tell stories of hope. I think this could be a helpful post on today’s anniversary. Respect for others–especially for others who are different from us–lies at the very foundation of building a culture and world of peace and hope. As Pope Francis put it in this year’s World Communications Day Message:  “Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

FROM SESSION: Interactivity and Dialogue: A Modern Expression Of The Christian Tradition?

“The Church is called to adopt not just technology, but God’s ‘way,’ the way God acts that seeks encounter.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

Communication in and by the Church is contemplating the way God has entered into relationship with humanity, and doing the same…. What is original in the Church is that contemplating how God “evangelizes” converts the Church’s communication practices.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

* * *

FROM SESSION: Finding Truth in an Age of Digital Propaganda

Director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Professor Renee Hobbs invited us to become more aware of the growing use of propaganda and propaganda techniques today. I was late to her presentation, but I can pass on one concrete tool she told us about: visit www.mindovermedia.tv

* * *

FROM SESSION: The Art of Being Human in a Digital Milieu

“Our technology diet shapes us just as much as our food shapes our bodies! It is forming us into a different way of being human. Is this the way humanity is meant to go? Am I contributing to becoming less human? Or am I evaluating and discerning with media? Are we truly free when we engage with this evolving digital milieu?” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Who decided we needed to be digitally connected 24/7? There are other dimensions of being human that need to be held sacred…

“In the art of being human, where do we as Catholic communicators insert contemplation, silence? …And how does what we produce bring [those with whom we engage] into deeper contemplation in their personal lives?”- Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Faith ‘Mediamorphasis’:

1. Shift from speaking to listening.

2. Shift from transmission to witness.

3. Shift from networking to community. (It is not about numbers, but about communion.)

4. Shift from strategy to art/handicraft.” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

 

“We shouldn’t let the digital technology drive us…we have to influence and shape it, so it follow us, not we follow it.” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

 

* * *

Jim McDonnell, program coordinator of the Congress, succinctly and eloquently summed up the themes of the Congress—and the main issues of the day for communicators who want to be bringers and bridges of hope. I shared his words with my community of Daughters of St. Paul because I found them so resonant with the “signs of the times”: the needs of people today and the challenges we face as communicators of the Gospel of hope:

1. The challenge of the new

2. The power of creativity

3. The need for collaboration and

4. The commitment to hope

 

Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators, Part 1

This past year has been full and beautiful in so many ways, but the beginning of September gives me the opportunity to “reset” some priorities that I haven’t been taking enough time for, especially: writing (including this blog) and exercise!

A great way to get back into writing is to pick up where I left off: which was right in the middle of sharing my experiences at the Signis World Congress in Quebec City in June. Rather than try to sum up each of the presenters and conversations, however, I thought I would share a few of the best standalone “gems” of the insights I received.

 

FROM PANEL: Emerging Spirituality and Religion in the New Media Age

“People are locating their spirituality in the context of their everyday lives—diverse, pluralistic, networked, experiential, relational, digitally-integrated, incarnational.” – Elizabeth Drescher, author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of American Nones (Oxford University Press)

“The boundary between the digital and the local is eroding: there are not two separate spaces. How can we facilitate those moments of integration?” – Elizabeth Drescher

“How can we [as Church] be fully established in this culture of digital literacy? What can we do to have practices of faith that go through smartphones?” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

* * *

FROM PANEL: Faith Formation, Storytelling and Social Media

“We must be a transformative presence within this digital culture that is searching for authenticity. As Karl Rahner puts it: ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic or nothing at all.’ – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

“To show mercy and love to others, we have to become mercy and love. To show Christ, we have to become Christ.” – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

* * *

FROM SESSION  A New Direction for Vatican Communications

“The challenge of creating, of building a masterpiece in the universe of communication: Michelangelo in the digital era—this is what we need!” – Mons. Lucio Adrian Ruiz (Vatican Secretariat for Communication)

* * *

FROM SESSION:  Building Peace and Hope in  a World of Cultural and Religious Diversity

“Our [Catholic communication] culture must not mirror the world in numbers of ratings, likes. We must offer solid, beautiful, content. Even if we reach a small audience—you  never know the results—they reach others.” – Father Tom Rosica, CSB, Salt + Light Television

“[Communication must] shift from debate to dialogue: intergenerational; inter-religious; political; to an open-ended process that puts the person in the center; the richness of the various perspectives can be transforming.” – Patrice Brodeur, University of Montreal

Signis World Congress 2017 Streaming Online

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Today at the Signis World Congress, we are joined by the Catholic Academy of Media Professionals  and the Catholic Press Association  Today is a bit of a freer day for me, so I am spending time talking to some of the wonderful here–brainstorming about how to use social media, sharing stories, exploring ethics for Catholic communicators, and more! Later in the day, I am looking forward to a conversation between Martin Scorsese (whose latest film, Silence, was screened at the congress this morning for those who haven’t seen it), and Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, and Fr. Peter Malone, MSC, both legendary in the world of Signis–Sr. Rose for her work in media literacy education, and Father Peter in his reviews of countless films. I will try to share my impressions here tomorrow.

Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary priest who goes to Japan in the 15th century, during the government’s fierce persecution of Christians. Although the story is based on a novel by Shusako Endo, the setting of the story is historical, and one of the main characters in the film is based on a real Jesuit priest. It is an amazing novel, now made into an amazing film. Silence is especially thought-provoking today, where we are experiencing a huge rise in religious persecution worldwide. I am in the middle of writing a guide for the film, which I will make available online here in the near future.

Earlier, I forgot to mention that Salt + Light TV is livestreaming much of the congress, so if you are interested in catching some of the sessions, visit: www.saltandlighttv.org, and click on the Signis logo (or click here.) 

It is such an amazing congress because of the wide diversity of people here, yet all very committed to the mission of the Church and to fostering quality media in our world. I love learning new “secrets” or “helpful hacks” that are not just shortcuts for the social media world, but also helpful practices. I hope that by the time I leave Quebec City, I will have a circle of social media specialists who can consult with each other regarding new software, trends, apps, practices, and platforms as they arise.

Recharging

What do you do when you feel like you have nothing left to give?

stranded-918933_1280That’s how I’ve felt through the week after the Clay Pots Retreat. It had been an amazing six weeks where I’ve given classes, retreat conferences, and assisted with our live webathon novena, but by the middle of the week, I couldn’t even think any more. I knew my introverted tank was past empty and I was running on fumes. It’s not comfortable when I feel like I have nothing left, that I’m “poured out,” and emotionally exhausted. In my prayer, even reading the Bible feels like it’s too hard. Fear that I will never be refilled takes over because I don’t even have the energy to deal with my worries.

And perhaps that’s the hardest part of all. When I’m that exhausted, I don’t just stop paying attention interiorly, but I feel stranded in the middle of nowhere, alone and abandoned; maybe even wrecked. Pretty soon, I’m overwhelmed by negativity and I simply want to cry because the emptiness haunts me.

That’s the short version of how I felt by Friday.

But I’d been in this place before, and I had the grace to see it coming earlier in the week. I seized an opportunity to get away for about a day and a half, and I took myself completely offline. In my prayer—when I just wanted to weep for sheer emptiness—I remembered how Jesus sanctified exhaustion. His solution for exhaustion was seeking out his Father…and so I spent several hours in quiet prayer. Most of the prayer time I simply accepted my emptiness, prayed for the people I’ve been interacting with for the past six weeks, and told Jesus I was open to whatever he wanted. 

That simple acceptance of my feelings and my discomfort, in Jesus’ presence—as difficult as it was—changed everything. Suddenly I was no longer stranded alone. Jesus was with me. Simply giving Jesus my poor, empty self and knowing that that was enough for him, made it become enough for me.

It was a very gentle weekend: I prayed quietly a lot, journaled a good bit, spent time outside (beautiful New England fall weather), took some long walks, watched a sci-fi film with a friend, and slept. And by Monday morning, I felt so blessed by the gifts of my ordinary life. But I continue to be aware that, for the next week or two, I need to continue being gentle, undemanding with myself, and creating extra space for quiet and listening. This will allow the “spiritual recharging” that began weekend to continue.

What do you do when you are spiritually and/or emotionally exhausted? I would love to hear your tips and strategies for “refueling” your spiritual life and your creativity!

Christ as Our Way of Communicating

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This week, we Paulines are praying the Novena to Jesus Divine Master. (The Pauline Feastday this year is Sunday, October 30th.) It is a beautiful, Scripturally-based novena in which we contemplate Jesus as Master, Teacher and Guide. Jesus is our way in everything, including how we communicate. Blessed James Alberione shared a beautiful reflection on how we are called to learn to communicate as Jesus did:

How did Christ communicate?

[Jesus] spoke in a simple and clear way even when he was teaching lofty doctrine. He adapted his teaching to the needs of every audience. The Gospel notes that he knew 
what was in every person (cf. Jn 2:25). He adapted himself to fishermen and shepherds, to those from Galilee and those from Judea, to the Pharisees, to his disciples, 
and to his opponents. How different is his conversation with the Samaritan woman from that with Nicodemus, who came by night! How different his teaching to the crowds from that given to the close circle of apostles! Yet it was always a question of the message of salvation.

He wanted his disciples to work in the same way.

The apostle [communicator], in fact, is not some great thinker who proposes his or her own conclusions, or has to defend his or her own teachings….. 
The apostle is a witness of what he or she has seen and heard from the Divine Master and from the Church in which [Christ] continues to live, teach, and guide.

What an immense privilege: to follow the Divine Master and cooperate with Jesus Christ in proclaiming his message of light, grace, and salvation.
-Blessed James Alberione

 

Quiet Success

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Our very first weekend Clay Pots Retreat for writers, artists, and media professionals was a “quiet” success! (During the 30-hour retreat–with an additional optional Friday evening–we had 19 hours of silence.) According to the retreatants, the combination of conferences, quiet prayer time, spiritual direction, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the celebration of the Eucharist, all made for an “awesome experience.” According to another retreatant, “The retreat was a great space for deepening relationship with God, understanding our role as evangelizers in media, and discovering and overcoming spiritual blockages/obstacles.”

For me, this retreat was an experience of communion, with the sisters on the retreat team and the retreatants. Working with the retreat team was a really beautiful experience of putting all our energies together for the sake of the spread of the Gospel and feeling together the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I also felt really  “at one” with the retreatants. We share so many of the same struggles: keeping up with the newest media and using them effectively with young people. We also share similar desires for deepening, for renewal in Christ, for responding to the call of Christ to evangelize; and we share similar challenges in overextending ourselves, fragmentation, facing “burnout,” and the need to discern God’s invitations to us in a daily basis.

My focus for the weekend was communication spirituality, with my presentation helping us to focus on Christ, the Perfect Communicator. 

Sr. Michael and I tried to tweet a few of the conferences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

We hope to have another retreat for media artists, writers, catechists, and people in ministry. Let me know if you’d like to be informed about upcoming retreats!