By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
In a Tweet posted during last week’s Catholic Media Conference, I wrote: “My gratitude and admiration for all who made this virtual conference come to fruition. Transforming Workflow workshop — the highlight today!”
It seemed almost miraculous that the Catholic Press Association organized a three-day virtual conference after cancelling the in-person conference in Portland, Oregon, that had been more than a year in the making.
“The Board of Directors believes this is our best course of action in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and financial hardships many of our members face,” wrote JD Long-Garcia, president of our association. Even more amazing, the CPA invited Catholic communicators — members and non-members — to participate at no charge in the conference, titled “Together While Apart.”
Pope Francis, in a letter addressed to participants, said the conference title “eloquently expresses the sense of togetherness that emerged, paradoxically, from the experience of social distancing imposed by the pandemic.”
He referenced his World Communications Day letter of the previous year in which he reflected on how “communication enables us to be, as Saint Paul says, ‘members of one another’ (cf. Eph 4:25), called to live in communion with an ever expanding network of relationships….”
Furthermore, the experience of these past months shows that the communications media is essential “for bringing people together, shortening distances, providing necessary information, and opening minds and hearts to the truth.” Our pope was speaking specifically about the Catholic media.
He said we need media “that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.”
We strive to convey that message week after week in The Catholic Messenger, which our staff has produced remotely, from our homes, for the past four months. I asked each of our staffers to participate in at least one virtual workshop for enrichment and inspiration.
True confession: I enjoyed the workshops conducted by Zoom video conferencing because I got a sneak peek at life outside the norm for my colleagues spread throughout the United States and Canada. Many participated from their homes, where the unexpected can happen, generally with humorous results.
A dog barked incessantly during one online workshop, which drove the presenter crazy but made the rest of us laugh because it wasn’t his dog! During another workshop, a mom juggled panelist and parenting duties as she talked about how her national newspaper transformed its workflow while she was on maternity leave. In her lap sat the toddler daughter she gave birth to during the paper’s workflow transformation.
I experienced a humorous, quasi-embarrassing moment during another workshop when my adult son with autism burst into my home office to say goodbye. Exchanging an elbow bump at the end of our visits has become a ritual that Colin treasures — so what if it interrupts a meeting?
Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, presided at the live streamed Memorial Mass for our association inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. I felt transported to the cathedral and responded naturally to the prayers and sang along with the cantor from my family room in LeClaire.
This terrific virtual conference concluded with an awards ceremony that combined humor with the serious business of announcing honorees. We at The Catholic Messenger received five awards, which we will savor with a trip to our favorite ice cream shop when it is safe to return to the office.
Meanwhile, we will continue to do the work to which we have been entrusted. As Pope Francis said, “All communication has its ultimate source in the life of the triune God, who shares with us the richness of his divine life and calls us in turn to communicate that treasure to others by our unity in the service of his truth.”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)
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