Sunday, June 30, 2013

Catholic Media Conference 2013

Hundreds Attend
Catholic Media Conference

In case anyone was wondering why I didn't post a homily last weekend (June 22-23), it's because I was out of town.

From June 19 to 21, more than 400 Catholic communicators of various stripes gathered in Denver to sharpen their media and business skills, meet or reconnect with each other, share war stories, and ponder how they might take part in the New Evangelization.

I’ve attended five of the annual conventions since 2007, and I never fail to be impressed by the commitment of these journalists, diocesan spokesmen, and others to their faith—to practicing it and to spreading it. To cite just one example, Jeff Bruno concluded a session on using images to enhance a story with this (I paraphrase): “The most important thing you can do to make your work better is to maintain a solid prayer and sacramental life.” And he’s no slouch of a photographer, judging from what he had to show and say!

At lunch on June 20, Mother Dolores Hart gave a talk that was both funny and serious
—followed by a book-signing for her new autobiography.
Most of the conference attendees were members of the sponsoring organizations—the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals—but also included Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and an African priest from the same dicastery, and journalists from several far-off countries like Australia and South Africa.

The conference began on June 19 with workshops (“master camps”) on communications plans, the use of video in reporting, building healthy organizations, the use of new media in the New Evangelization, and modern apologetics. It continued on June 20-21 with numerous short sessions in tracks geared to communications planners, editors and designers, business people, reporters, and “general interest.”

Yours truly took part in the “master camp” on “The Digital Church: A One-Day Guide to New Media in the New Evangelization,” offered by Matt Warner ( and Josh Simmons ( and

Fr. Tom Rosica, president of Canada’s
Salt & Light Catholic TV network,
chaired the panel discussion on the New Evangelization
as well as giving a major address to the convention.
On the 20th I went to sessions called “Say What?!!? Translating Churchspeak for Your Audience,” “Telling a Story Through Images,” a New Evangelization panel (which chiefly covered the impact of the papal transition), half of one on storytelling in reporting and half of one titled “The First Pope from the Americas.”
On the 21st I took in “Crafting a Social Media Policy That Lets You Sleep at Night,” “Church Trends to Watch,” “Putting News on the Nightstand, Instead of the Doorstep—How to Reach Catholic Millennials,” and “Conversation: The Identity of the Catholic Journalist in 2013” (a conversation involving Our Sunday Visitor’s Greg Erlandson and National Catholic Reporter’s John Allen).

Featured speakers at the conference luncheons and dinners included

-- Fr. Robert Barron (“Six Tips for the New Evangelization”:;

-- Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB (“What Benedict Stored, Francis Scatters”:;

-- Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (on the U.S. immigration debate:

Abp. José Gomez addresses the Catholic Press Association at their awards banquet on June 21.
Each day included a late afternoon Mass, the first presided over by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., the second by Denver’s vicar general, and the last one by Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and concelebrated by Archbishop Gomez. Most of the ten or so priests attending concelebrated daily. Most of the conference attendees took part, making for some robust singing (accompanied by piano and a cantor) and elbow-to-elbow seating. Unlike previous CMCs, there were no “outings” to neighborhood churches or the local cathedral.

There was, however, a room set up for Eucharistic adoration throughout the conference, where many people popped in during the day. (It made a nice, quiet place for praying the Divine Office for me.) That seems to have been a CMC first.

A summit meeting of the America’s “Big Three” Catholic newspapers:  Jeanette DeMelo, editor of the National Catholic Register, introduces Greg Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor, and John Allen, star reporter for the National Catholic Reporter before the “conversation” of the latter two about contemporary Catholic journalism, before an SRO crowd.
One of the conference’s many lighter moments: Four of the religious priests happened to be standing next to each other in the vesting room before Mass when Archbishop Aquila came over to meet us. Each of us told him our name, order, and working location, e.g., “Mike Mendl, Salesian, from New Rochelle.” Fr. Mike Lorentsen, Conventual Franciscan; Fr. Pat McCloskey, Friar Minor; and Fr. John Belmonte, Jesuit, did the same. Then Fr. Belmonte added, “This sounds like the lead-in to a joke: a Salesian, a Franciscan, and a Jesuit were vesting for Mass….”

An ebullient Peter Finney,
editor of New Orleans’s Clarion Herald,
just presented with the St. Francis de Sales Award
by the CPA, shows off “Franny” to Fr. Janvier
from the communications dicastery in Rome.
Awards were presented at luncheons on the 20th and 21st to individuals for outstanding work in the news and communications fields, including the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award for outstanding journalism to Peter Finney of the New Orleans Archdiocese’s Clarion Herald. Each of the sponsoring associations held its own awards dinner; on the 21st the CPA honored numerous newspapers, magazines, and books in over 200 categories, usually with first, second, and third place citations.

Besides the work and fun of the convention, I had the pleasure of visiting my cousin Kathleen and her husband Butch, who live just outside Denver--a 45-minute commute for me each of the convention days. Then I spent the weekend with them (June 22-23).  They showed me around the area a little bit--things that they hadn't taken Dad and me to when we visited them on a vacation in the late '80s. From their backyard there's a great view of the Rockies, and a large lake is across the street from them.
Sun sets over the Rockies as a couple walk their dog along the shore of Standley Lake, Arvada, Colo.

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