inghamDear Sisters and Brothers,

I am delighted to be writing to you on the occasion of the 48th World Communications Day, which we will celebrate across the Catholic Church in Australia on 25th May 2014.

It is with great joy that I present to you a digital storytelling project entitled Stirring Hearts, which is accompanied by a parish toolkit and educational resources to celebrate this special day in the liturgical calendar.

On the Feast of St Francis de Sales, Pope Francis launched the theme for the 48th World Communications Day: “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter”. In his message, the Pope recognises that today we are living in a world which is growing ever ‘smaller’ and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours.

Pope Francis said: “Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalisation makes us increasingly interdependent. Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family. On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor.”

Pope Francis explained that “Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.”

As an avid user of the laptop and smartphone, I am aware of how easy it is to become immersed in the world of communications, social networks and technology. However, as Pope Francis said in his message for World Communications Day, “The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings. The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us.”

The Holy Father reminds us that we are challenged about how our communications can be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter.

What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel? In spite of our own limitations and sinfulness, how do we draw truly close to one another? These questions are summed up in what a scribe – a communicator – once asked Jesus: ‘And who is my neighbour?’ (Lk 10:29). This question can help us to see communication in terms of ‘neighbourliness’. We might paraphrase the question in this way: How can we be ‘neighbourly’ in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?

Similar to Pope Francis, I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. “Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours.”

May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration. Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.

I encourage you all to use the 12 digital stories, which are five to six minute YouTube videos, published on the Stirring Hearts website www.stirringhearts.org.au. As Pope Francis tells us, use the digital highways to share these good news stories with your friends through Facebook and Twitter. The accompanying toolkit can be used as a communications and educational resource in your parishes and dioceses.

In the words of Pope Francis, use these wonderful digital resources to spread the good news “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”

May I take this opportunity on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to thank all the unassuming individuals who supported this resource by participating in our World Communications Day Project. It is your enthusiasm and willingness to be ‘communicators’ about your encounters with Christ that makes this digital storytelling project capable of stirring hearts throughout the Catholic Church in Australia and beyond. A special thank you.

Bishop Peter Ingham
Chairman, Australian Catholic Media Council


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