Communicating about Communications
Tuesday, November 26 through to Thursday, November 28 brought together in Ballarat a number of Sisters and Institute staff with communication-related responsibilities. The focus of the First Institute Communications Gathering, held at Ballarat Lodge and Convention Centre, was on the place of communication in our combined endeavours for the spreading of the Good News and the Mercy charism.
During the time together, those attending received information regarding avenues of communication and information technology taking place for the Institute and participated in times of discussion and sharing towards the first steps in the building of a communication strategy for the Institute. There was also discussion and planning regarding ‘just Mercy’ the online publication for the Institute and a chance to meet and build networks among the many who are an important part of communication for the Institute.
Fr. Richard Leonard was the keynote speaker. Fr Leonard is a Jesuit priest. He has degrees in arts and education and theology. He directs the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting and he has lectured on faith and culture all over the world. His presentations gave much food for thought as we considered our communication with each other and the wider world. He led us through reflection and discussion on the following:
- What is the media telling us about ourselves? How much do we know about the media culture that forms us? What can we do about it in our communications strategy in regard to the place of communication, especially new media, in our ministry of mercy?
- If our ministry of communications should be about anything, then it should be about enabling our people at every level to be empowered to be discerning – the ability to navigate our daily lives alert to demands of the Gospel and its practical application in our lives.
The Gathering began with a time of prayer and a focus on three symbols – the Message stick, the Word of God and the Mercy Cross, all significant for us as communicators and workers in the ministry of Mercy. Following the prayer, Adele Howard rsm, member of the Institute Communications Planning Group, led a reflection on our common Mercy story, the example and call of Catherine to Mercy.
The session “Being a Mercy Presence Online” was presented by Anne Walsh. Known to many, in addition to her present role as Editor of the Mercy International Association eNews and Administrator of the MIA Mercyworld website, Anne brought to the gathering a wealth of experience as an educator and a wide knowledge of on-line Mercy presence through her role as a member of the Fraynework Multimedia team for many years. Anne is also Editor of the E-news for the Sisters of St Joseph and Administrator of their website. One important insight Anne shared is the distinction between being an online presence and being present online. If we are to fully communicate the Mercy message to the world of today, we must seriously strive to be ‘present online’ as an Institute.
The Gathering spent time looking at the recently launched Institute online publication ‘just Mercy’, led by Anne McMillan rsm who is the editor. Many helpful observations and ways forward were contributed for ‘just Mercy’ in 2014.
The final presentation was given by Mr Travis Wheelan – Institute Information Technology Manager and showed the extensive support that has been given to Sisters and staff in the use of new technology and the possibilities for the future.
Sister Berenice Kerr rsm was the facilitator for the Gathering and enabled all to contribute to future planning through table discussions which focused on ‘Why Are We Here?’ and ‘Where To From Here?’ These discussions provided a number of observations and recommendations which will contribute greatly to future Communications planning.
The final session was a Panel which generated further helpful discussion and then the Gathering concluded with thanks to all who contributed to a very positive, informational, entertaining and significant event, finishing with a final time of prayer.
The Institute Communications Planning Group – Liz Callen, Adele Howard and Anne McMillan