Friday, May 10, 2013

Salesian Perspective on Social Media

A Salesian Perspective
on Social Media

This comes from ANS, the Salesian news agency based in Rome, dated May 10.

Fr. Filiberto Gonzalez, Salesian general councilor for communications, spoke recently with the online production Vatican Insider about the present situation of the Salesian Family regarding social media. Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Communications Day (May 12) is relevant and applies also to Salesians as religious, educators, and evangelizers.

Where does the Salesian Family stand in the communications field?
I think we’ve always been present in this world of communications. Don Bosco was outstanding in this area. We could even say he was ambitious – in a holy way – because he wanted to win as many souls as possible for God. When he wrote his circular letter on the spread of good literature, he said that this was one of the apostolic priorities entrusted to him by God. I also think that sometimes in this area we have been lacking in courage, and in the creativity and pastoral-educational vision of Don Bosco.

Why should Salesians be present in social media? Does it make sense for them to use Facebook and Twitter in their apostolate?
If we look to the example of Don Bosco and the requirements of our Constitutions, we’ll find some basic criteria that apply in the new times in which we live, and contemporary culture and young people. These criteria can be expressed in short phrases like: where there are young people, there are Salesians also; the Salesian is open and cordial, ready to take the first step; the Salesian welcomes the values of the world and refuses to lament the signs of the times; he accepts everything that is good, especially if it’s pleasing to the young. But even that isn’t enough! The most important thing is missing. Who will communicate the love of God to the millions of young people who inhabit this new digital continent, and communicate among themselves in these new spaces and with a new language? I think this is the most youthful continent, and therefore the most Salesian one. The salvation of the young becomes the most important criterion for being present and living in social media.

Can social media become for many Salesians a new kind of oratory where they can meet young people?
I am convinced the answer is yes!  There is the physical oratory, and there is the virtual oratory. Both are real! In both of them there are young people who are searching for something. They want to learn, to share, to dialog, to express themselves, to find friends, etc. What they’re missing is someone to accompany them, someone who’s open and authentic, without any prejudice, always ready to appreciate the new culture.  The good thing about the oratory is that it’s an open space that depends on the quality of relationships, and where everyone’s helped to grow. Social media are a space where a family atmosphere can be created, with friendship, mutual education, and a search for God. In this new type of oratory, there’s space for values and activities where young people are the main protagonists, accompanied in the way Don Bosco wanted and as he did himself at Valdocco.

Would Don Bosco be on Twitter today?
I’m certain that Don Bosco would use all the social media, and not just because they happen to be the fashion. Don Bosco’s passion for God and for the salvation of young people was such that he was able to understand and make use of one of the best means available in his day of promoting culture and ideas, and Christian education, namely the printed word. He couldn’t be physically present among young people everywhere, but he wanted the salvation of the young so much that he extended his “playground” as much as he could, he multiplied his presence, he enlarged his classroom and the pulpit where he evangelized. He got involved, in an intelligent and effective way, in the area of publishing and printing, which was the best means of his time. In that way he was able to multiply many times over the number of young people and others who read his books. This was his way of bringing the Gospel to them, and spreading his ideas and sentiments and convictions. He found a way to be present wherever young people and their parents and educators were present, overcoming the barriers and limits imposed by walls and time zones.
This was his way of enlarging and multiplying Valdocco.

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