• November 14, 2019
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By Most Reverend Emmanuel Ade Badejo

Bishop of Oyo

Preamble

To our topic here, evangelization, in very simple terms, is the dissemination of the Gospel to the ends of the earth for the purpose of drawing humanity closer to God, to live a life of holiness “so that all might be saved” (Jn 3:16). This dissemination of the Good News is aimed at “making disciples of all nations” for Jesus.  All Christians have a duty and a right to evangelize and to make disciples for Jesus Christ. The lay faithful can fulfill their role in the mission of evangelization beginning with good participation in the organization of Family Prayers and Discipline, Neighborhood Preaching, Small Christian Communities, Church Societies, Christian Apostolates, Collaborative Ministries, Parish Projects

In a recent article published in many Catholic Media organs, Professor Michael Ogunu had a comprehensive list of the ways in which laypeople can participate in the Church’s task of evangelization. The long list comprises:

  • Regular (weekly) Confessions to purify themselves and be effective witnesses to the faith.
  • Frequent devout participation at Eucharistic celebrations and Eucharistic adorations.
  • Contributing to the Diocesan development fund.
  • Praying for the conversion of those who do not yet believe in Christ and for the unity of all Christians.
  • Praying for our Bishops, Priests and Religious.
  • Praying the Rosary every day for an increase in faith, for conversions and for increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
  • Teaching Catechism at Catechism classes in the parish on a voluntary basis.
  • Avoiding all forms of dishonesty, corruption, immorality and ungodly living.
  • Showing love and compassion to fellow human beings, whether Christians or people from other religious faith.
  • Discharging our duties creditably wherever Divine Providence places us.
  • Striving to live an exemplary Christian life and being actively involved in Parish activities.
  • Being on the lookout for lapsed and fallen Catholics and doing whatever one can, to bring them back to active membership and religious practice.
  • Making our families models of what Catholic families should be.
  • Showing complete dedication to Church activities by devoting time, talent and treasures for the growth of the Church.
  • Supporting the work of Catholic charities.
  • Supporting the Propagation of the Faith by contributing generously (financially) to it.
  • Reaching out to the alienated and lonely.
  • Reaching out to divorced and separated couples.
  • Making regular visitations to the sick, the bed-ridden and the aging.

Bearing witness to Christ through exemplary life in the family, in society, at work, and in the Church and offering to God your sufferings, uniting them to the sufferings of Christ for the salvation of souls.

However, from the very way Jesus gave this mandate, he showed that direct, deliberate communication has a big role to play in evangelization when he said: “Go …teach”. (Matt 28: 19-20). By telling his disciples to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation”, Jesus united the spreading of the gospel to communication. The Church down the years, in fact, has already self-defined on many occasions as itself being “evangelization” or “communication”. Simply put, to evangelize, is to communicate, to disseminate an idea, proposal, project, even a feeling related to the Gospel. To evangelize people is to employ all legitimate means to communicate with them. That is the field of media.

If so, I would have wished that by now a layperson would be delivering this intervention rather than me because since I have been involved in Pastoral Communications in Nigeria I have believed that the area of Social Communications is more the preserve of the laypeople than anyone else’s. If the lay faithful would just play their role of co-responsibility for the Church’s mission then the role of media in evangelization can best be treated by them who engage every day with the media. The challenge is for the Clergy to sufficiently form the lay faithful on the teachings of the Church on media and for the lay faithful to show themselves worthy and capable of that trust. Fortunately, there is abundant church documentation and teachings on the media, especially since the Second Vatican Council. Inter Mirifica, Communio et Progressio, and Aetatis Novae lead the way. Among these are the annual messages of the World Day of Communications from 1967 to date and others addressing the internet, communication ethics, and social media to provide needed guidance for all. The Vatican has actually led the way in this regard. The new Dicastery for Social Communications is headed by a veteran lay journalist Paolo Ruffini as prefect. He is assisted by Mons Lucio Ruiz.   Here in Nigeria the media professionals already have strong associations that are growing in Confidence and I believe are waiting to be challenged.  SIGNIS unites all media practitioners with their colleagues on the international level. For now, the national President is Rev Fr Patrick Alumuku but it has many more lay members than priests and religious and this is bound to change. CAMPAN, the Catholic Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria assembles all who work in pastoral communication, in the Church from very diocese with their Nigerian Professional colleagues and CAEAN the Catholic Artistes and Entertainers Association of Nigeria is mainly for actors, actresses, singers, and entertainers. This has only a few priests and sisters, especially as chaplains. Imagine the power the Church will wield with the media if all these lay people in the media took their responsibilities seriously and actually    So, I pray that this will soon change as it will be a great opportunity for engaging the media in evangelization. The challenge is that they are compelled to balance charity work with survival. Because most of the creative people are NOT salary earners and need to earn their livelihood. The Church must understand that and act accordingly. Basically, practitioners need FORMATION, ACCOMPANIMENT, UNDERSTANDING, AND MONEY. This will even turn them into witnesses that can evangelize others in their working places.

Examples of such alliance with CAEAN was the Pastoral Congress documentary held at Ibadan with Paul Emema and distributed by the Word Among Us and Take me to Maama were Supported and disseminated by the CBCN. We need this kind of alliance and if well managed will yield good results.

Some thematic modification

Most people today understand media to refer only to the press, radio, newspapers, television, social media and other technical means of communication. However, the means of human communication that can enhance evangelization actually go well beyond these technical means. The Second Vatican Council was the first time in the history of the Church that an ecumenical council discussed the means of communication and issued an official document Inter Mirifica. Its authority exceeds that of an encyclical by a Pope or of any Bishops Conference. The preparatory commission at the council convinced the council that expressions like “diffusion techniques”, “audio-visual media”, “mass media” or even “mass communications” which were common at that time, did not fully cover the concerns of the Church in the area of interest. They did not cater for communication as a process between and among humans. “Thus, the expression proposed was the ‘instruments of Social Communication’ which would encompass the communication of and in human society”[i]. In this manner man himself can be seen as the fundamental medium for the task of evangelization.

The Scope of Evangelization

Evangelization covers the entire mission of the Church. It covers all the terrain and the horizons that touch the existence of humanity, which is the object of evangelization. After the first Synod of Bishops for Africa which took place in Rome in 1994, the Church in Africa adopted for its pastoral identity the theme: “The Church Family of God in Africa: You shall be my witnesses”. That theme shows an aggressively evangelical character and was laid out under five major activities namely: Proclamation, Justice and Peace Dialogue, Inculturation and Social Communication. These five subthemes cater for practically every facet of human existence, practically indicating that evangelization must take place through every human activity and in every space where members of the Church can be found and where the Church is therefore represented. Deriving from that, it is essential to emphasize that the first and the most important “medium of evangelization”, so to speak, is every individual Christian.

It is in this light that the very theme of this Extraordinary Missionary month (EMM), “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”, must be considered. The special occasion reminds every baptized Christian that by virtue of that fact he is a “gift”, a “mission”, called to evangelize, that is to help others to come to the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ. In his message for the occasion, Pope Francis wrote: “Through our communion with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters are born to new life. This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practice proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission”.

Unfortunately, the reality of our day is that most baptized Catholics do very little evangelization, if at all. Some even deliberately avoid occasions and events that might suggest such. However, it is the mandate of Jesus which every authentic Christian must obey, to make disciples of all nations. The environment in which we live today even compels us to spread the Gospel if the voice of God, Jesus Christ ad our Christian faith will not be totally obliterated in our time. As a dear friend parliamentarian from the Philippines Francisco Tatad once said. “In our day everyone and everything enjoys the freedom of speech except Almighty God”. Catholics must see to changing that.

On many occasions up till the launch of this Extraordinary Missionary Month, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has insisted that the Church must be a “church on the go” not in any way playing safe where it can otherwise witness to Christ and bring forth the Gospel. A friend of mine sent me a beautiful image of what every baptized Christ in should be as the village cock which belongs essentially to only one household but when it crows, alerts the entire village.

The Church has taught that evangelization can only happen when we communicate the will of God to people in a manner that they can relate with and that makes them want to follow Jesus. From the Second Vatican Council, the Church has therefore insisted on the necessity for the Church to evangelize the worked by means of the language that people in various cultural and geographical locations understand.

The Scope of Media

The scope of the Media is to project the message of evangelization beyond the confines of our habitual spaces, churches, and Religious Institutions. Here we must highlight the spectrum and potential of the methods and means which man, the fundamental medium of evangelization could appropriate today for effective evangelization. That spectrum is almost limitless for all and every means communication from the traditional to the digital is still valid and useable. From the word of mouth to signs and symbols of nature, to human gestures, means of traditional and group communication, print, electronic to modern digital communication everything lends itself to be used for evangelization. King David in the psalms had this to say: “Heaven declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Psalm 19:1-2). There is even a sense in which the words of Jesus at the triumphant entry to Jerusalem supports this. He told those who would stop his followers singing “Hosanna to the Son of David”, “If these were to keep quiet the very stones would rise up and sing” (Lk 19 40).

The Role of Media in Evangelization

However, coming to those media which, apart from creation, are the product of man’s faculties creative intelligence, these exist to project the Church’s capacity to reach people with the message of the Gospel. In adopting these we have good antecedents. Jesus Christ taught by word of mouth, but he used stories and parables, chose relevant locations like the sea, the mountains, or the plains to communicate his message for greater effectiveness. For the same reason, Saint Paul raised the bar further. He understood the importance of writing letters to communities so that his teaching of the gospel could be used and applied in many places simultaneously where he could not be physically present. Thus, he conquered the limitation of time and space. Any wonder that his letter became so diffused and read? This is the scope of media, to extend the Gospel beyond our confines of space and time beyond our own physical reach for the advantage of many. This implies that the first thing to think about in relation to evangelization is: “What would be the most effective means for the job traditional modern or digital?”

According to Pope Paul VI in his message on the 1974 World Day of Communication, “there is the need to set the contemporary vehicles of information and allied services along a line of development which will facilitate the diffusion of the Good News and create a favorable climate for the strengthening of concepts such as the dignity of the human person, justice, universal brotherhood, values which make it easier for a man to understand his own true vocation and which at the same time open the way to a constructive dialogue with others and to union with God”.[1] These words of the pope hit on the essential role of the media which is to facilitate not create, nor mutilate concrete values and concepts which the Church is sent to establish in human society and hearts. The same Pope hit the nail on the head in his teaching on evangelization Evangelii Nuntiandi when he said “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims ‘from the housetops’ the message of which she is the depositary. In them, she finds a modern and effective version of the pulpit. Thanks to them she succeeds in speaking to the multitudes”.[2]

THE OPPORTUNITIES

It is in the nature of every medium of communication that it can be both an opportunity and a challenge depending on the kind of use to which it is put by the human element behind its use. This goes from traditional media to digital.

Traditional Media Will Always Evangelize

The Universal Church, especially since the Second Vatican Council, has paid attention to the importance of Traditional Media in the mission of evangelization. The emphasis on this was clearer especially at the first Synod of African Bishops in 1994. Even before then many African theologians pointed out the necessity to pay Traditional Media due attention. Ndiokwere, whose book was published just before the Synod highlights this quite well when he discussed the relationship between communication and inculturation:

“It is the activity of the church, at a particular place and time, to present and live the Christian message faithfully in language, signs and symbols and actions which speak to the people  in so convincing a way  that they naturally and readily identify with it and whole-heartedly participate in it and contribute to it”[3].

The media of the word, tales, proverbs, drama, songs drums, dance and storytelling, and orature have been used by Africans to convey lessons and values from time immemorial. They can never become obsolete. Even today, the digital media feed on the content generated by traditional media. Think for example about the effective use of these by African elders, especially by women who are more directly responsible for bringing up their children. They ought to be given more attention in evangelization especially in catechesis.  Catechesis is seen as one important function of evangelization that needs to be reenergized in the Church today. Women and the skills they possess are in pole position to help achieve this as catechists, evangelizers, mothers of families and teachers of religion. In addition, what we have cone to refer to today as Modern media generally feed on stories of faith and testimonies of what faith in Jesus and God’s word has helped them to achieve. The Bible is full of such stories. All Christians must learn to tell them. Women, however, seem to have special disposition for telling such stories, especially with children although not exclusively so. A deliberate effort to empower women to adopt modern means of media to project their stories to a large audience could bring huge benefits to the Church for the work of evangelization. Fundamentally, however, the word from-mouth-to-ear among people leads the way of opportunities along with other traditional media.

The Everlasting Printed Word

Even in this contemporary digital world, anyone who sees the complete obliteration of the role of the printed word for evangelization should be encouraged to stop dreaming. As is often said: “no modern medium can deny its progenitor which the printed word is in history”. The print medium still enjoys abundant patronage because, for one thing, preference for media is generational. There will always be people who prefer to read than watch Television and who prefer the touch of paper to the remote control or electronic keyboard.  For such people, the psychological kick of marking and underlining pages, saving paper pullouts, and rereading portions of a publication cannot be sacrificed for anything. Apologetics is still so necessary especially today when the Church is vilified in many ways. The Church misses many opportunities for evangelization due to the reluctance of priests, religious and laypeople to propagate the word through tracts, billboards, posters, newspaper articles, books, etc. A tract or a newspaper article could pass from hand to hand and continue to travel and transform lives for decades-long after other media have decayed and become obsolete. Tribute must be paid here to some veterans who have championed the use of this medium for evangelization over decades. Professor Joseph Obemeata who died recently wrote articles for the secular and church media every week for over 6 decades. Dr. BGK Ajayi, a consultant ophthalmologist has been doing the same with special metaphors from his field for scores of years as well. Cardinal John Onayekan, Professor Michael Ogunu, Bishop Matthew Kukah, Reverend Father George Ehusani, Fr Anthony Akinwale OP, Bishop Felix Ajakaye and yours truly here have also tried to keep that flag flying. There is still a need for more hands-on-deck for this important task of evangelization.

Radio and Television as Resistant Media

The diffusion and endurance of radio as a medium of information in Africa and particularly in Nigeria still makes it a formidable medium for dissemination of information and news. Although many people look down on radio as a medium overtaken by time, an objective analysis will show its resilience and strength as a very concrete and effective instrument for strengthening the Church and for reaching those who are not formally part of the Church.
With a bit of attention, anyone would acknowledge the number and diversity of people who still listen to the radio in Nigeria. Among these are rural dwellers who have little or no electricity, nomadic workers, travelers, farmers, traders and businessmen and women who tune in to one station or the other for accompaniment, artisans who are busy at work in various capacities, the homebound and others who use radio for company. Coupled with this is the dialogical and democratic nature of radio programmes in discussions, phone in interviews programmes etc. All these things must persuade those who really desire to spread the Gospel to take radio into consideration as a viable, relatively cheap but powerful tool to use.  Besides in the contemporary world where communication is hugely democratized, radio still serves as an important platform for discussion on matters of faith, catechesis, and exhortation. One radio programme today, well-structured and presented can leave a nostalgic spark in the heart of believers and non-believers and draw them to the wellspring of salvation or make them search further on spiritual things. A radio transmission of the Angelus, recited in a deliberate manner and especially garnished with teaching and reflections on various aspects, relevant to faith and life can serve as a real daily vehicle of nourishment and evangelization for audiences. What has been said of radio can be said for television on a lesser but more engaging scale. Because TV is both sound and image the message it conveys can be more compelling and persuasive if its characteristic requirements of skills collaboration and funds can be overcome.

 

Artists and Artistes as dynamic Media

Our artists and artistes must be challenged and encouraged to translate gospel values and stories into art or communicate them with artistic expressions and for people and audiences. There is a lot of power in the capacity of our talented and creative people to couch the message of the gospel in their particular means of expression. The Church has been the champion of art over centuries. In fact, there was a period in her history when the most popular and effective tool of instruction was pictures of sculptures and music. It is a fundamental error to think that modern man may have outgrown such a powerful means of communication. We have every reason to return the Church to that earlier status and invest in the commissioning of such projects even at this period.

Here the services of media Professional and Practitioners bodies like Signis and its subsidiaries like the Catholic Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria, CAMPAN or the Catholic Artistes and Entertainers Association of Nigeria (CAEAN) and even the practitioners of drama and sketches at the grassroots level should be challenged and taken more seriously not just as entertainers but as evangelizers. Such associations, organizations, and groups have the expertise and skills to do much with the message of the gospel. Signis can serve as a consultancy or project planning platform for the Church at various levels while CAEAN and others propose possible projects and sketches for different purposes. Too often however such bodies wait to be invited or even sponsored to promote the gospel or to evangelize. This is often not forthcoming and the “stand-back” attitude needs to change.

The Liturgy as media for evangelization.

Pope Benedict once said that the liturgy, when well prepared and celebrated can act as an effective medium of evangelization. Evidence of this abound whereby people have been drawn to the Gospel and become disciples through the work of a good choir, or homily. In any case, everything in the liturgy can attract or distract, depending on how it is presented or encountered. This goes also for objects of function around the church. Key among these is the signpost which is always on a 24-hour service. How seriously is this taken? When our liturgy is well illustrated at our major celebrations it can attract many non-Catholics to the faith. “Come and rest. This Church is prayer-conditioned”

Catholic Bookshops and Media Outlets for Evangelization Resources

Among the things that ought to be more common than is currently the case if the Church truly cares about evangelization, are bookshops, newsstands, studios, music stores, and video shops. Most institutions that wish to affect society with their message know the importance of centers where their audience can find the information they wish to disseminate. Today, Catholic bookshops are too few and far between and where they exist are sufficiently poorly sited. Generally, they are found within Church premises where they “preach only to the converted” or outside where they are difficult to locate. Besides, there hardly exists any effort to call people’s attention to them either by regular announcements at liturgical gatherings or by a direct advertisement which is not necessarily a taboo to pastoral work. Many dioceses have studios of different grades collecting dust and largely unused. These constitute wasted opportunities.

Inventories as Powerful Media

If bookshops, studios, and media outlets have not received enough attention, worse still are the materials being produced in practically many dioceses and church institutions all over Nigeria today. Books, musical CDs videos, recorded homilies that could transform many lives simply stand no chance of touching many because there is little effort to promote them.  As a result, they circulate only a few copies within a very limited space and then recede. How different things would be if we had a regularly updated inventory of such resources and regularly inform people where they could be found. This would be a huge plus for catechesis and personal devotion and learning. Other churches do much better than the Catholic Church in this area and justifiably reap abundant rewards for their effort. No wonder then that many Catholics nourish themselves with products that emanate from sources other than catholic ones!

Catholic Institutions Must Become Media for Evangelization

Catholic Institutions and products need to be better patronized. Apart from EWTN, Lumen Christi Satellite Television, Catholic Radio Stations or friendly ones, publication like “The Word Among Us” or “Abide in My Word” among others are Nigerian media resources that have crossed diocesan or even international boundaries and constitute authentic pastoral and spiritual resources, that are still largely unknown to many. If only we had more people like Fr. George Ehusani who had used these to good measure for some time now.

As Archbishop Akubeze said in his homily yesterday, our schools and hospitals must first and foremost be spaces and opportunities for evangelization. The message of salvation we can give there far surpasses in importance the education we give and, in any case, people are more receptive to spiritual messages at the period of illness than at any other time.

We need a little more direct, preferential placement of these media outlets in our institutions like hostels, schools, hospitals, offices and even homes where Catholics and non-Catholics come and go. Why should one not be able to find in Catholic Institutions, LCTN or EWTN, or find a copy of Abide in My word or the Word Among us in the lounge or bedroom of our hostels or facilities or to hear the radio tuned to a catholic channel in an office can greatly contribute to the Church’s work of spreading the Gospel and evangelize.

The Church’s social and charity outreaches and services continue to help millions to live better material and spiritual lives but they are little used as tools of evangelization due to misplaced humility and correctness. Such programs and services refrain from identifying themselves as Catholic when they are in the public square and exposed to the general public. Sorry if I mention here the Justice Development and Peace Movement which basically works according to the Social Teaching of the Church in Poverty Alleviation, Skill acquisition, political education, empowerment, legal aid, etc. These are all areas that deeply transform society. Such programs, well accepted by the general public are often not identified as Catholic Church inspired. Too often on the radio or television, one hears that the programs are powered by a foreign organization and the JDPC. For many that might as well be just another Non-Governmental Organization.  Why can we not hear and see Catholic Justice Development and Peace Organization on Radio, TV or on billboards and posters? It is surprising that such a rich avenue for evangelization can be neglected and left unexploited. Jesus said, “In the same way your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your father in heaven”.

Digital Media Tools as Inexhaustible Opportunity.

Perhaps a major opportunity which anyone under 50 years of age would readily root for today is the availability of New Media. By this, I mean all the media that today are driven by modern information technology, computers, smartphones, and the internet. These are more often referred to as social media. By some definitions, they are “web-based tools for interaction that, in addition to conversation, allow users to share content such as photos, videos, and links to resources…. They are digital platforms used for interaction and content delivery.” These media are easily identifiable with young people and are generating a completely new culture of relationship and communication. Through these media, for the first time, a large number of people are empowered to simultaneously become authors, teachers, and producers at the same time and with the same authority as anyone else. This reality has not been lost in the Church. Already in 1971, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications wrote: “The modern means of social communication offer men of today a great round table. At this, they are able to participate in a worldwide exchange in search of brotherhood and cooperation. It is not surprising that this should be so for the media are at the disposal of all are channels for that very dialogue which they themselves stimulate. The torrent of information and opinion pouring through these channels makes every man a partner in the business of the human race.”[4]

Special Focus on the Youth

This positive awareness has been repeated over the years with the new media being identified more with young people, such that many Papal messages for the World Communication Day in the last few years have continued to hammer on them: Hear Pope Benedict: “Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the New Media to foster connectedness, communication, and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news and of sharing their ideas and opinions.[5] It will be a logical conclusion therefore that the Church and those all who hold the power of administering the Church form an alliance with young people to work for evangelization with the digital skills and competences which they possess more than anyone else. This recommendation has been made over the years by the Church in an attempt to have the gospel proclaimed and enable it to permeate the new digital culture.

New Media offer almost unlimited reach to many today who do not go to Church, who cannot go to church and those who have left the Church. They offer an important facility for apostolate to those who cannot be reached by ordinary means, the homebound, the sick, the nomads, or the young people who are “natives of the social media”. Etc.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley in his foreword to a recent book by Brandon Vogt, wrote: “New Media has created a fundamental shift in communication patterns comparable to the introduction of the printing press several centuries ago and has similarly instituted a new culture of communication. It is not just important but vital that the Church bring the good news of Jesus Christ into that culture to infuse the digital content with the leaven of our Catholic faith”.[6] Citing Bishop Ronald Herzog of Alexandria leading the US Bishops in discussion bout new media he went further: “Many people today, especially the young, turn first to New media for information. Therefore…it would be disastrous if the Church didn’t take it seriously and begin effectively utilizing these tools now to augment our existing communications media. The Church doesn’t have to change its teachings to reach young people, but it must deliver the faith to them in a different way to reach them and be present.”[7] In short new media are indispensable tools for building the Church beyond our church buildings.

Imagine for a minute the efficacy of blogs as a forum for exchanges sharing of perspectives and explanation on practice, doctrines and values of the Gospel without people going through the stress of movement, weather etc? Imagine the functional usefulness of podcasts and videocasts for homilies, talks or teaching that have been recorded and then are further relayed on smartphones at relevant but remote venues to people who cannot be present at the event? Think for a minute about the speed and simultaneous nature of facebook live transmissions or the cheap accessibility of Whattsapp for sharing spiritual resources and material for evangelization? Young people and others who are skilled in the use of these resources have their jobs well cut out for them. On the other hand, these media are so important that all agents of evangelization ought to learn to engage with some of them at least in order to be authentic and credible agents of evangelization.

THE CHALLENGES

The challenges facing the role of the media in evangelization today have generally been mentioned all along.

We must find a way to conquer the laziness of Catholics as regards evangelization. Consider how students would strain to do research and study in order to pass an important examination! Consider the amount of money we send on data to be able to download a movie or clip from the internet! Consider how people would deploy all the hardware and skills of social and digital media to find information! Would they do the same for faith or spiritual development. Many parents tell stories, apply proverbs, jokes, and riddles in order to communicate an important lesson of life to a child but would not make the same effort to communicate a truth about their faith to their children. How many hours would young people spend in the gym, or on the football pitch or in a music academy learning to sing, dance or play a musical instrument, but would not do the same to learn the scriptures in order to be able to teach others? If young people would share the words of scripture or an uplifting homily with the same dexterity with which they share a piece of interesting but mundane information the Gospel would have long been better served. This lukewarm attitude is probably the biggest challenge to the role of media in evangelization. One might consider the following as topical ones:

  • The lukewarm attitude to and lack of interest of many in their responsibility as evangelizers
  • The unwillingness to invest financial resources in engaging various media.
  • Uncertainty about formally entrusting the evangelization mission to media professionals and practitioners with attendant responsibilities
  • The feeling of inadequate knowledge of the faith and the Bible which make many feel unqualified to represent the Church
  • The reluctance of Church leaders to move with the tide in the area of communication.
  • Insufficient planning and investing information, facilities and programmes which will enhance the use of media for evangelization
  • Insufficient formation of the faithful for their task as co-responsible Christians for the Church’s mission
  • Lack of sufficient trained church agents of communication and evangelization.
  • In the case of new media, the challenge remains how does the Church lead from the kind of contact made possible by the Internet to the deeper communication demanded by Christian proclamation? How do we build upon the first contact and exchange of information which the Internet makes possible?”

Conclusion

With the indications about the pervading powers of the New media and digital technology some people would go as far to suggest concentrating on them only for effective evangelization. This would be a fatal error for the new media have many side effects and weaknesses too. The truth is that the media of communications are generational and there will always be people who remain unreachable by new digital media. Such people, for reasons of preference, accessibility, and age or health condition are more amenable to other forms of media. Indeed, a cumulative holistic and all-embracing approach would function best for effective evangelization.

In a book by Meredith Gould this precious advice is provided and it is worth listening to. Priests, especially must never see social media as a replacement for face-to-face, in the flesh pastoral ministry. The word was made flesh not the word was made social media. Social media can be an extension of a priest’s pastoral presence but will never replace it. Nor will it entirely replace all other forms of media that have previously elevated the gospel in the Church and have served the mission of evangelization.

None of the above is enough excuse not to seize the opportunities presented by the media for evangelization. Jesus asked all to be witnesses and make disciples of all nations according to the capacity of each one. It is necessary to throw the challenge of evangelization to every catechumen right at the moment of baptism so they understand from then that they are meant for mission. (The Rastaman) The Church has never prohibited anyone, qualified or not from disseminating the Gospel. Everyone must work for evangelization according to his ability. Simply present the facts of the Gospel and your faithful witness. You need not win any argument or battle. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Just do not fail to “talk your own”

[1] Pope Paul VI, Social Comnications and Evangelization in Today’s World, Message of Word Communications Day 1974.

[2] Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi: Apostolic Exhortation on ‘the Evangelization in the Modern World, December 1975, n. 45.

[3] N. NDIOKWERE, The African Church, Today and Tomorrow, vol. 2 Enugu: Snaap Press 1994, p. 31.

 

[4] Pontifical Council for Social Communication, Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication, 1971, no

[5] Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the 43rd World Communication Day 2009.

[6] Brandon Vogts, The Church and New Media, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division Inc. Huttington, Indiana, p 11.

[7] Ibid, p.12.

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