Friday, May 22, 2009

No Hardball Left Behind

With World Communications Day upon us, let's just say the excitement isn't what it could be.

No surprise there, of course: as the ecclesial barometer shakes out, enthusiasm for the media mostly tends to register somewhere just above "crickets"... maybe even just below.

Either way, you get the idea.

In a perfect world, though, WCD should be a perfect reminder for the various elements of the church to reach out beyond their house organs to the wider world, especially in these days when, nationally, less than a quarter of the church shows up at the weekend, and -- at least, where they still blessedly exist -- the demographics of diocesan-newspaper readerships portend anything but growth going forward.

Bottom line: as anything internal mostly preaches to the choir, reaching the rest means engaging with the secular, mainstream press.

Sure, that might cause some to hyperventilate, break out in hives, whatever... but fret not: as the old saying goes, 80 percent of it is just showing up.

The rest isn't as hard as it might look, and luckily, just in time for this weekend's observance, one of the relative handful of the bench who does it with ease and relish has taken to recording another master class.

On his fifth anniversary at the helm of the 550,000-member Camden diocese, Bishop Joseph Galante sat down earlier this month for a lengthy TV chat with the River City's Pat Ciarrocchi -- one of the few mainstream journos around who's a proud, public and unapologetic daughter of the church.

It's no softball-fest, however -- and as he faced down questions ranging from his response to "Obama Dame" and dwindling numbers in the pews to the Camden church's controversial reconfiguration that'll see its 124 parishes nearly slashed in half, it's clear that Galante wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

In each local church, it falls to the bishop to be the chief teacher. But a stream of statements is never that job in full -- at its best, accomplishing that task means taking the press and its interest seriously and eagerly, kindly and courageously.

We might not see as much of that as we should... but, suffice it to say, it's a work that desperately needs doing... because, well, when questions go unanswered, bad things happen.

Especially to the great folks on all sides who've given their lives and work to staying "on the story," every good wish for a Happy -- and, given the long weekend, relaxing -- World Communications Day.