Thursday, June 26, 2014

Catholic Journalists Meet in Charlotte

Catholic Journalists of U.S., Canada Meet in Charlotte

About 300 Catholic journalists—writers, editors, bloggers, TV and film folks, communications directors, et al.—gathered in Charlotte, N.C., June 18-20, for the Catholic Media Conference. CMC is the annual convention of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and of the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals. Participants came from dioceses, religious orders, and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association, Propagation of the Faith, Catholic Relief Services, tour companies, and printers from Alaska to Florida, from San Diego to New England, and from Canada.

The Charlotte skyline from my hotel window
There were also several foreign participants, such as a rep from the German Episcopal Conference, and most notably Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who always either attends or sends his deputy.

Keynote addresses

Major addresses were given at dinners by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the USCCB; Heather King, well known writer and blogger; and Helen Alvaré, law professor at George Mason University and formerly the USCCB’s spokesman on life issues. All three speeches were very well received. In addition, Abp. Celli spoke at one of the workshops.

Abp. Kurtz of Louisville
Abp. Kurtz reminded the Catholic communicators that they share in the Church’s mission of evangelization, which sometimes includes speaking hard truths, but always with love, for which he thanked the journalists. See; and

Citing Pope Francis’s concerns, Abp. Celli said that the Church’s biggest challenge today is to present her maternal face. Catholic media, he said, are part of that presentation by how they present the Church’s teachings and activities; Catholic communicators “share the Gospel message through our personal and professional lives.” Communications networks, he said, are constructed of people, not wires. See

Ms. King charmed her audience by speaking directly from her heart as a woman who’s been deeply wounded in life and is finding healing because she’s found Christ. “How can you live in this world with some kind of integrity?” she asked; then answered, “It’s all in the Gospels.” Christ on the cross is the ultimate expression of the human condition. The Catholic Church, she said, is the “one place that has truly welcomed me and loved me and allowed me to flower as a human being and as a woman.” See

Ms. Alvaré addressed the mainstream media and our secular culture’s presentation of what women are concerned about, contrasting that with the teachings of the Church. See
Helen Alvare
In particular, she assaulted the views of Planned Parenthood and the Obama Administration. She urged the Catholic media to communicate the Church’s “amazing teaching” about marriage, sex, and parenting. “Sociological research,” she said, “is so supportive of what we teach.” She also touched on religious freedom, insisting that the Church must effectively show society what she does with the freedom she lays claim to. See

Eucharistic Liturgy

Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte (, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston (, and Abp. Celli presided at the CMC liturgies at Charlotte’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church. All gave much appreciated homilies. The various priests attending, as many as eight on Thursday, concelebrated, including such luminaries as Msgr. Owen Campion of Our Sunday Visitor and Fr. Tom Rosica of Salt + Light.
Abp. Celli with your humble blogger before Mass on June 20
One of the highlights of the CMC every year is the presentation of the St. Francis de Sales Award, the highest honor given by the Catholic Press Association in recognition of journalistic excellence. It went this year to Jim Lackey, a 40-year veteran of the Catholic press, especially with Catholic News Service since 1979, in tribute to “the first-rate quality of his reporting and editing and the wide reach of [his] work.”  Runners-up were film guru Sr. Rose Pacatte, DSP, and Bob Lockwood, recently retired from Our Sunday Visitor and the diocese of Pittsburgh.
Jim Lackey, 2014 winner
of the "Franny"

Fr. Mike Mendl represented the Salesians in general and Salesian Bulletin U.S.A. in particular at CMC. He took in two or three workshops a day on Thursday and Friday of the couple of dozen on the agenda.

One workshop by Fr. Matt Malone, editor of America, was about crafting an editorial approach suited to our age both ecclesially and politically. He maintains that Catholic media have to evangelize, be prophetic, and build communion. What we communicate is inseparable from how we communicate it:  the Truth we communicate is Love.

Chris Gunty, editor of Baltimore’s Catholic Review, led a workshop on a flexible approach to the changing media landscape. It’s critical that our publications use multiple platforms (e.g., print, Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs) to reach multiple audiences (differing ages, genders, regions, ethnic backgrounds, etc.). He defined the core Catholic message as moving people toward Christ by “informing, teaching, inspiring, and engaging them through all forms of media.” What one does must always be tested, evaluated, and adapted to circumstances.

Another workshop, offered by law professor Michael Scaperlanda, aimed to educate the journalists about current trends in law and religious freedom issues.
CRS panelists: Ron Lajoie, Kerry Weber, John Feister, J.D. Long, and moderator Kim Pozniak
Each year Catholic Relief Services offers two journalists a trip to one of the developing world’s hot spots. One workshop brought together the four most recent fellowship recipients, Kerry Weber of America and Ron Lajoie of Catholic New York, who went to Rwanda in 2013, and John Feister of Franciscan Media and J.D. Long-Garcia of The Tidings (Los Angeles), who went to Niger in 2012. They described in words and images what they saw and heard, especially the very impressive work being done by the Catholic Church in such places, and how their fellowship has broadened their outlook as journalists covering the Third World.

The last workshop was given by two reporters from Charlotte’s Catholic News Herald on how to use Tumblr with one’s reporting: a platform with many advantages, easily customized and integrated with other platforms, and “fantastic” for multiple contributors.

In addition, early on Thursday morning there was a CPA business meeting, and on Friday afternoon about a dozen journalists from the Eastern Region met for a roundtable discussion of a few matters, including evaluating CMC 2014.

On Friday afternoon, Catholic News Service screened a new documentary called Voices of Vatican II in which ten or so surviving participants (both bishops and periti, including Pope Benedict) describe their experience at the council in interviews. Slightly less than an hour long, it’s excellently done and will be available for purchase by the end of the year ( Highly recommended!
Professor Michael Scaperlanda speaks about the current situation
of religious liberty in the U.S.

At the CPA closing dinner on Friday, June 20, awards for the last year’s outstanding publications were announced: newspapers, magazines, Web pages, and books. The hundreds of printed announcements take 36 pages of the CPA’s tabloid, The Catholic Journalist.

Our two provinces are proud to say that the Salesian Bulletin U.S.A. won three awards (not too bad out of just five entries). These included

-- 2d place for best feature article in a religious order magazine, “Salesians Educating and Evangelizing: Salesian Ministry in Various U.S. Contexts,” by J.C. Montenegro, Sr. Loretta DeDomenicis, FMA, Sr. Juanita Chavez, FMA, and Fr. Jim Heuser, SDB, SB Spring 2013. The judges noted: “The focus on youth serving youth makes this submission have a unique angle. The writing is smooth and fluid.”

-- 3d place for best essay in a religious order magazine, “Just Don’t Get Caught,” by Fr. Mike Mendl, SDB, SB Spring 2013: “An important modern issue, cheating, is wrestled with here, with clarity and thoughtfulness. Intelligently written and conceived.”

--Honorable mention for best essay in a religious order magazine. “Holiness in Don Bosco’s Style: Occupational Hazard,” by Paula Rondon-Burgos and the ANS staff, SB Late Winter 2013: “An inspiring examination of a level of busy-ness many readers can relate to, with pragmatic insights. Ms. Rondon-Burgos’s smile is as brilliant as her subject’s!”

(Thanks to Julie Asher of Catholic News Service for some of the material on the major speeches.)

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