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Mother Angelica is the foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN): Global Catholic Network.In memory of Mother Angelica, foundress of the EWTN Catholic media empire, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki wrote an article, Mother Angelica used power of media to evangelize. He explained that the Church used the term “social media” for the technology of communication. A document of the Second Vatican Council, Inter Merifica, uses the same term. Mother Angelica was called to use the media for evangelization. She did so to proclaim the Good News and share Catholic teachings in the modern era.

Eternal Word Television Network 

In his article, Archbishop Listecki also discussed another important document that came after Inter Merifica. This year, we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the document, Communio et Progresio. This document is an instruction on the pastoral use of the media to proclaim the Good News to the people in the third millennium.

Pope Saint Paul VI predicted that effective communication would be most important for Catholics in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. Communication is the key word, to communicate and reach others in different places.

People use television, radio, and the internet to get information. They spend their time listening and seeing what is going on around the world. Mother Angelica had a vision about it, and she tried to respond to it with the Eternal Word Television Network: Global Catholic Network (EWTN). She launched this global network on the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on 15 August 1981, or the 10th anniversary of the document Communio et Progressio

EWTN has proven to be a wonderful network for evangelizing people. It is not just available in the United States, but also in the South Pacific and most parts of the world. We can rely on EWTN to learn about what is going on in the Church and the world today.

Pope Saint John Paul II

Ever since Venerable Pope Pius XII used radio to proclaim the Good News when he gave a blessing for all people around the world, the Catholic Church has used modern media to communicate. Archbishop Listecki said that the radio brought his message live to all students of Catholic schools. My family lived in West Papua at the time when John Paul II was elected as our Pope. We heard the news of his election from a radio, and we were overjoyed!  

The Church uses the instruments of social communication to proclaim the Good News. This is based on the theology of communication that Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh and dwells among us. This communication of truth has power which comes from the person of Christ. He is God’s Word made flesh, and, through Him, God’s own life is communicated to humanity by the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives.

Cardinal Justin Rigali said that the activity of the Church is communication. This is based on the founder of the Catholic Church, Jesus Christ Himself, who told His disciples to communicate the Gospel. We know that the mission of the Church is to evangelize, in season and out of season.

Regarding Inter Merifica, it has two parts. The first part identifies the norms for the right use of social communication. The second part tells us about the instruments of social communication and Catholic apostolates. Vatican II encouraged the bishops and the faithful to use all means of social communication.

At the end of Vatican II, Pope Saint Paul VI created a commission called the Pontifical Council for Social Communications which issued a Pastoral Instruction. The council shared the idea of the mission of the Church and the theology of the Incarnation, when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us to communicate with us (Communio et Progressio, No. 11). When the Church uses social communication, it permits men and women to know themselves better and to understand one another more easily.

New Ideas

The era of Pope Saint John Paul II brought in new ideas. He used social communication to evangelize people and to communicate in every corner of the world. He encouraged the Pontifical Council for Social Communication to create a program for evangelization. The resulting document, Aetatis Novae, is a Pastoral Instruction on social communication on the 20th anniversary of Communio et Progressio.

After he visited his home diocese in Poland, John Paul II promoted the New Evangelization. He said that the media and social communication can and should be instruments in the Church’s program of re-evangelization and new evangelization in the contemporary world (Aetatis Novae, No. 11).

Father Franz-Josef Eilers, SVD, wrote an article, Communication Theology: Some Considerations. He explained the basic thought of the theology of communication after Vatican II. Communication Theology does not start with the media or technical means, but rather with the center of theology, with God Himself. Cardinal Avery Dulles had the same idea about the theology of communication which is based on God’s self-communication.  He called it “symbolic communication.”  

We know that Pope Saint John Paul II was concerned about using the media for the New Evangelization. On 3 June 2008, Carrie Gress had a conversation with the theologian Christine Anne Mugridge. She mentioned that the theology of communication is not merely Christianizing media-technology or scientific techniques, but rather an encounter with the living Christ. John Paul II taught us that we must first encounter the living Jesus Christ in order to enter into His mission. God revealed Himself in the Incarnate Word to communicate with His holy people.

In the beginning, Mother Angelica used television to promote the Good News because it was more powerful than any other instrument of social communication. She used this option as an opportunity to be a storyteller. Television became the “new tabernacle” for some people who spend many hours every day watching it.

Generation Z 

The newest generation is called Generation Z, and they are immersed in social communication. They were born with the internet and cell phones, and they are fluent in the use of communications for learning and conversing with friends all over the world.

When we look at the phenomena of technology, like mobile communication, it is growing like crazy and being used for many things: taking notes, storytelling, Facebook and Twitter interactions, taking pictures, playing video games, etc. Generation Z uses this technology with ease and to educate each other.

When they communicate, they often use a unique language that they have created. This language creates a new culture in society. Generation Z uses this language for building its own network systems. They have groups or memberships which connect with others in different locations.

We can use technology to share the joy of God’s mercy and love to this young generation. This is our opportunity to use the media for giving love to people who are hungry and thirsty for God. In Communio et Progressio (chapter II, part 2), the modern media offers new ways of reaching people with the message of the Gospel and helping with Christian education to make it more interesting and effective.

The Catholic Church uses the power of social communication for two purposes. The first is to evangelize and educate so people can move closer to God and recognize Him more frequently in their lives. Second, we help them encounter Jesus Christ in a way that forms an intimate relationship. There are many different venues where the Catholic message can be effective: printed word, movies, radio, television, theatre, telecommunications, internet, etc.

If we want to reach Generation Z, there needs to be pastoral planning. The Church must create programs that truly help people to encounter Jesus Christ. In Aetatis Novae, it is referred to as a sense of urgency, and it contains a helpful guideline with the elements of a pastoral plan for social communication at the diocesan, community, and parish levels.

Invitation to Salvation

The late Mother Angelica and the EWTN Network has responded to the challenge of promoting the Good News in the modern era. We too, as the Mystical Body of Christ, are called to participate in some way of reaching people with the joy of the Gospel.

The Church tried to anticipate this with the concept of the theology of communication based on the Incarnation and the Cross of Jesus Christ. Pope Saint John Paul II started this effort in our Church to build a community of love by using various technology for the New Evangelization.

People are no longer far away, due to the blessing of technology. We can communicate with many people in different places at the same time. We can use the power of social communication to evangelize to those who are living in the shadow of death. If they can see and hear Jesus Christ (because they have the right to hear what God is proclaiming!), they may accept an invitation to salvation.

This mission means a great deal to the faithful for the future of the Church. We must use this opportunity to approach Generation Z so that they fall in love with Jesus Christ. We need to commit our hearts to evangelize by using the technology available to us to create safety networks offering hope to a world lost in moral confusion.

+JMJ+

© Rev. F.A. Eka Yuantoro, M.S.F. Original article published in The Messenger magazine from the Missionaries of the Holy Family, Saint Louis, Missouri. All rights reserved.

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