Photos by Fiona Basile, Media and Communications Office, Archdiocese of Melbourne
Communicators, journalists and multi-media experts from across Australia spent three days in North Sydney this week for the Australian Catholic Communications Congress from 4-6 May 2015. Held at the Rydges Hotel, a total of 172 delegates registered and attended the Congress.
The theme of the Congress was: What is our voice? ‘Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks’ (Mt 12:34). The Twitter hashtag #Whatisourvoice was used throughout the event to make comments, posts and photos on social media platforms.
One delegate said the theme of the Congress was “amazingly portrayed in so many ways. There was an overwhelming and encouraging call to go out and be a voice in the world”.
The opening address was delivered by Brigidine Sister Jane Keogh who broke open the theme by discussing her work as an educator and as an advocate for asylum seekers. She asked the question: “How do we find the truth and hear what God is calling us to?”
She went on to say: “My life’s experiences have led me to sit with the vulnerable and the persecuted, and it is here that I have come closest to the truth, the essence of Jesus’ teachings.”
A series of practical media skills workshops, hot-button issue discussions and plenary talks took place during the three-day Congress. Speakers covered the following topics: capitalising on opportunistic times when the media would like to hear our voice, what does the voice of Pope Francis teach us, what is our voice on the Royal Commission, and speaking the truth. Debra Vermeer a freelance journalist and former communications director of the ACBC encouraged the delegates to “Go out to all the world and tell the good news”, and said to them, “Indeed, if we don’t, who will?”
Workshops took place on day one, and covered photography, introduction to social media, writing a media release, preparing a parish newsletter, website basics and creating digital stories.
Afterwards a delegate described the workshops as “insightful and informative, ranging from practical to inspirational”. Another delegate said, “the Congress reinforced the importance of our Church being present in the digital world”.
A series of hot-button issue discussions took place on day two, which looked at the areas of euthanasia, migrants and refugees, religious tolerance, the family, the environment and overseas aid. These discussions were followed by a panel discussion about how we communicate on these issues and identify the stumbling blocks to communicating difficult messaging.
There was significant support from ABC Religion and Ethics team including presentations from Jane Jeffes, Noel Debien and John Cleary. Jane Jeffes encouraged the Catholic media to be active players in voicing the Catholic viewpoint, get people thinking, and place themselves in the conversation.
Diocesan representatives as well as communications staff from religious orders provided support and participated generously in all of the sessions.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications delivered a keynote address on the topic, ‘The Church in a digital world: communicating the Good News, sharing the gift of faith’.
His keynote presentation, where he encouraged those assembled to find the music of the hearts was warmly received.
Congress delegates extended a special thanks to Beth Doherty following the launch of her new book about using social media for church. Archbishop Celli launched the book Tweet others as you would wish to be tweeted: a Scripture-based guide to social media for the Church at the end of this keynote presentation.
Congress delegates attended the evening Mass at St Mary’s Parish Church, North Sydney celebrated by Archbishop Celli and concelebrated by bishops and priests from around Australia. Congress delegates read the prayers of the faithful and played music during the Mass. The Congress dinner took place at the Ron Dyer Centre, St Mary’s Parish,
Voiceover artist Robyn Moore, best known as the voice of the iconic koala cartoon character Blinky Bill, delivered an entertaining after dinner speech.
Generous financial support was provided by: ACU, Optus, WN Bull Funerals, Church Resources, Kairos, Broken Bay Institute, Garrett Publishing, Parousia Media, EWTN, Catholic Super, CCI, CDF Sydney, CDF Parramatta and CathNews.
Photos and presentations from the event are published on the Australian Catholic Communications Congress website: Whatisourvoice.org.au