HO-HO-KUS N.J. –Though the month of January has much “down time” that provides us with the chance to catch up and plan, the friars of the Ministry of the Word team have had some diverse speaking engagements that have made life interesting this season.
Last week, I gave a presentation about “Religion in the Media” at St. Anne’s School in Fair Lawn, N.J., which, until two years ago, was one of Holy Name Province’s parishes. The Jan. 25 event was part of the religious education program, originally called the “Franciscan Academy.” It was started by Ron Pecci, now director of Holy Name’s postulants in the Bronx, and Peggy Long of the parish staff. It is now called “Faith Quest,” a program at which I have spoken several times. They have this program three times a year, last week’s included three workshops.
At the presentation, attended by approximately 20, we discussed the power of the media in telling the stories that create the culture, how much time adults and children spend with the media, and how influenced they are by it. We also talked about the story of God and religion and its place in society, how the media influences how we see ourselves, our Catholic Faith, and how Hollywood has evolved in telling our story.
American movies have come a long way from The Bells of St. Mary’s to Agnes of God: from the Greatest Story Ever Told, to The Last Temptation of Christ, and from Going My Way to the movie titled The Priest. We discussed The Passion of the Christ and Da Vinci Code, and showed film clips. Also, we discussed images of the priesthood, as well as how films deal with moral issues and what it means to be Catholic.
The program tried to give the participants a taste of media literacy including learning how to read the messages of the media. I recommended the Web site of The Center for Media Literacy. One of its themes about television and the media is “Love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it.
I have always been interested in the media and its effect on society and culture; I have taken many courses in media literacy. In 1987, I spent a sabbatical in Berkeley, Calif., studying the media, taking a course in TV awareness training and another course about religion and the cinema. I have given numerous workshops on media literacy.
In addition, I gave Days of Recollection to two groups last week: the Peekskill, N.Y., Franciscan Sisters and the St. Monica Society in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. The latter group comprises women who are related to people with addictions.
On Mardi Gras evening, Feb. 20, I will be giving an Evening of Reflection to the community of Our Lady of Mt.Carmel, Ridgewood, N.J., where two missions were given in the past.
During this season, I and the other MOWs also meet with members of parish staffs, where Lenten Missions are being given. The schedule for the Ministry of the Word is available on-line.
The Province’s MOW team members will meet in Florida next month for their annual gathering.