PC 2010 @ Don Bosco.org

Ronald Menezes sdb

Come February and we shall be having our Provincial Chapter. Our focus this time will be “Going back to Don Bosco”. A fitting theme indeed as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the founding of our Congregation. As I look forward to the forthcoming Chapter and the decisions that would effect us for the next six years, it is my earnest desire that this Chapter would help me and all of us in the province truly to “Celebrate Don Bosco”. I would like to, “Celebrate Don Bosco in his Prayer, Celebrate Don Bosco in his vision and mission, Celebrate Don Bosco in his love for youth”.

In this article however, I would like to focus on “Celebrating Don Bosco the Internet Way”. A reflection on the Social Communication Ministry in our province.

Article 6 of our Constitutions lays emphasis on the fact that, ‘Social Communication is one of the priority fields for the Salesian Mission’. Don Bosco realized that a consecrated Salesian life would be useless if it could not be communicated and proposed to others. He used the means that were available at his time viz., the print media to provide valid means of knowledge and formation, for realizing at the same time an effective process of education and evangelization, and for involving young people themselves as apostles in the spreading of good books.

Forty years ago, Len Kleinrock, UCLA, who sent the first message on September 2, 1969, wrote: “I am not surprised that the Internet provides anyone the ability to connect….I am surprised at how far the Internet has penetrated every fabric of our lives and society”.

A mission tool that we have today in this area of Communication is the Internet. Given the possibilities it offers and its efficacy, not to engage in proclamation using the Internet would be a grave loss. Not only do we speak of being the message but also carrying forward the message to as many as possible in the most effective and powerful manner as possible. However, this entails that we as communicators are convinced ourselves of the message that we are “communicating”. Or else there will be no difference between a non-Christian operating the Internet and us, Salesians doing the same.

The Church has now recognized its interactive nature in communication. The Church considers the Internet as a gift of God. Hence, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. Some of the possibilities and parameters in cyber ministry today are:

Blogs: it has everything that you can look for in a newspaper. Sometimes, even more. Once you log into a blog site, you become a blog journalist! It is an apt forum to share your faith with others, and enrich your own in return. Faith needs to be shared and transmitted. It is active, conscious and alive.

Websites and Mobile: a website is an apt tool to communicate with people from all walks of life and reach out to a wider network in one’s ministry. We could also introduce gospel ministries through emails. There are yahoo-groups and gmail-groups available to send to a selected group of email subscribers on topics. It is an interactive forum for sharing one’s views and news on a particular topic that is fixed by the group.

SMS is an easy way to begin the SMS ministry in the cellular world. It is the world of the young today. With a little investment in the network, one can send free SMS to quite a number of mobiles realizing much good work among the young (Word Of God a day, a thought a day, food for thought etc.)

Standardized homilies with stories and incidents happening all over the world have become popular due to the Internet. The first part of these Internet homilies are useful to interpret and understand the Word of God, but to apply it to ‘this’ people, local homilies are important. The priest needs to apply the Word of God to his people here and now.

A major drawback is that the Internet is not available to all because it requires electricity, a computer and at least, a telephone connection. However, the number of Internet users is fast growing, even in India, thanks to the multiplying Internet cafes across the country. The major bulk of Internet users are young people, and this is natural given the newness and technological back up of the medium. Internet is going to be with us in a big way before long, just as TV invaded the Indian homes after the 70’s.

Our Provincial Chapter would do well to put in place what Fr. Veechi said a long time ago (AGC 370, p.24ff) viz., to put in place an adequate formation process in the area of social commu

nication; if our skills do not keep pace with the changes, sooner or later we shall be left behind. It appears as though we are already lagging. What is required therefore is:

A basic Formation: to train every Salesian of our province to be able to make good use of the new media and to be able to do so in a discerning manner.

For animators and workers in the education and pastoral fields: training not merely in the ability to use the media skillfully but imbibing a sense of inculturation, of education and pastoral action within the new culture of the media.

Formation for specialists: some confreres and lay people must be prepared in the field of social communication to provide expertise, help and guidance where needed.

I must admit that this article has a bias to the urban setting. We need to keep in mind that the medium must appeal to the audience, and if street theatre and puppet shows get the message across in a rural setting, the Internet can take a back seat, even as we enter the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

Finally all of us, and especially those involved in media apostolate, must keep in mind that possessing technologies does not make us good communicators. On the contrary they can be a hindrance to real communication. That is why it is said, ‘more the media, less the communication’. Many of us possess valuable technological gadgetry for personal use, but hardly for apostolic purposes. No technology, however brilliant, can substitute committed manpower. Education through modern technology cannot do away with basic values of truth, love, service and justice. Without a deep commitment to the cause of the people, to evangelization and proclamation of the Word of God, modern technologies can only confuse and divide.

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