On the 44th World Communications Day in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the people, saying: “The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more St. Paul’s exclamation, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.’”
In this same spirit, and mindful of Pope Francis’s constant urgings to “go into the streets, to the outer reaches of society” with words of mercy and hope, the Order’s English-speaking Conference has released a set of social media guidelines. The provincial ministers of the ESC last month approved “Preach the Gospel at All Times: Guidelines for Evangelizing Through Social Media,”created by the ESC Communications Committee, at their fall meeting.
Social Media Guidelines
The ESC “strongly encourages the use of social media by its members,” according to the guidelines that are available on the ESC’s website. “These tools serve as an effective way to spread the Gospel and our Franciscan spirituality, to make visible the good works that we do in so many places, and to prove to be a valuable way to recruit vocations to our way of life.”
The guidelines contain both helpful tips and advice to help users avoid common pitfalls when using communications tools.
“Precisely because of the ability to disseminate information worldwide so quickly and easily, it is essential that these resources are used in a professional, mature and responsible manner,” according to the guidelines. “Sloppy use of this means of communication will result in constituents being confused by the information offered, or worse, by receiving a negative impression of the Franciscans.”
Jocelyn Thomas, director of the HNP Communications Office, and Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, executive secretary of the ESC, finalized the draft of the document that was reviewed and approved by the ESC Communications Committee at its meeting in September. “We believe the ideas in the ‘Guidelines’ will be helpful to both friars and to their partners-in-ministry,” said Thomas, who was elected chair of the communicators committee at the 2013 meeting.
Digital Media Strategy
At the meeting of the U.S. provincial administrations in December, friars expressed the desire to create a new approach to our online Franciscan presence with a focus on vocations and the evangelization of youth. The ESC Communications Committee created a new digital media strategy at its September meeting that will result in the eventual hiring of a digital media director to guide this plan.
The provincial ministers approved this strategy at their October meeting and began the process of putting it into action by appointing Fr. Michael Surufka, OFM, of Assumption BVM Province, to chair a committee that will be tasked with the creation of a U.S. Franciscan website, social media presence, and smartphone app development. Fr. Alvin Te, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province was also appointed to the committee. Other friars with expertise will be invited to participate in the process as well.
The ESC’s new digital media committee will also begin the process of finding someone to serve in the role of digital media coordinator who will be the coordinator and animator of the U.S. Franciscan Internet, digital and social media presence.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.