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SIGNIS Nigeria holds 4 days’ convention to brainstorm on Communications in the Church

by Christians Gokyo, Jos

Signis Nigeria, in collaboration with Center for Study of African Culture and Communication (CESACC), and Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA), recently at Pastoral Center in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, held a 4 days’ convention to make cursory survey of ‘Communications in the Church in Nigeria the Past, the Present and the Future.’

The occasion resolved that, the Nigerian Catholic Church is both a human and spiritual community, and as such have been a communicating entity. Thus, the Church, from her establishment, has ever been involved in communication.

Though, for her cautious vigilance, the Church did not rush into the use of the means of mass communication, and thus, was considered an outsider; she has taken great measures to use the media and has encouraged her numerous sons and daughters to do the same; and as such, can only be seen now as an insider in the use of the means of social communication. 

The Resolutions was signed by the National President of SIGNIS Nigeria, Very Rev Fr. Patrick Alumuku, and Secretary, Mr. Tony Agbugba, and issued to newsmen.

The participants came from different parts of Nigeria. The theme was auspicious because it captured two historical moments of the sixtieth anniversary of the hosting diocese of Port Harcourt, and also the fortieth anniversary of the Catholic Institute of West Africa – all taking place within 2021 – the year of the SIGNIS Nigeria Convention.

According the resolution, the teeming and active participants, who are of varied age brackets of both lay faithful, religious and clergy, are a clear indication of the tremendous achievements of the Church in her evangelization through the media in Nigeria.

They, therefore, urged the Church to prioritize communication in her budgeting and in financial plans and make use of a multi-funding approach; adding that, the Church should use a multi-media approach to communicate instead of the gross use of the print media to the utter neglect of the new media, broadcasting, and the traditional media.

They also urged the Church to find a synergy in the use of both lay, religious and priests in her communication field and further training of more personnel; for a high use of professional communication can never be overemphasized, and the inclusion of communication courses in the curricula of seminaries, formation houses, and mission schools must be pursued vigorously. 

As much as the Church has her best in the use of the means of mass media, there is still room for improvement in her use of the new media-cum broadcast media for evangelization. They added that, the good news is that the new media technologies are such that the Church can handle.

 “Thus, we recommend that the Catholic Church in Nigeria should adequately embrace the new media of evangelization to build Catholic faith and put the Church on the digital space. Furthermore, the Church should develop critical and strategic communication frameworks for modern evangelization for more effective and more efficient,” it noted.

According to the resolution, there is no gainsaying the fact that communication is capital intensive in mobilization and financing; and as such, constantly calls for financial support; but often there is paucity of funds to carry out the Church’s mission of evangelization through the media.

“We, therefore, recommend that the Nigerian Church should have to address the issue of raising fund to support her evangelization through the media; and to do that adequately, much as Catholic Media Practitioners are encouraged to focus more on evangelization than scouting for money, the Church authorities should do more in ensuring adequate funding of communication,” it added. 

Also, Dioceses should lay out plans on how best to collect funds during World Communication Day celebrations; Diocesan Communication Directorates should be included in the budget systems in diocese, and efforts should be made by local Churches to attach Communication Directorates to viable parishes for assistance. 

Financially buoyant for lay faithful could be asked to support communication directorates. Directors of communication can write grants and the grants, when given, should be used for their designated purposes.

SIGNIS has always been an organization of the lay faithful, who are working in the media; who are Catholics and would like the light of their faith shown in their work.

To have more and more lay faithful, who are working in the media to identify with SIGNIS, it is important for the Church to reach out to them through media education, advocacy, provision of spaces for interreligious and intercultural dialogues, and the promotion of a culture of peace, while giving everyone a pride of place to participate in SIGNIS Nigeria.

Therefore, we uphold that SIGNIS Nigeria should constantly strategize and re-strategize in ways that are supported by honesty, and accountability, with proven paths to success; and more and more lay faithful media practitioners should be encouraged to join SIGNIS Nigeria. 

It is in planning of pastoral communication that policy statements could be made, implemented and evaluated by the directorate of communication; and there is the need for planning, which can never be overemphasized. 

They also, therefore, recommend that directorates of communication should constantly make plans for their communication. In making plans or policy statements, efforts should be made by communication directorates to keep their plans clear, practical, and keep them reviewed intermittently. 

They are also encouraged to use local language, or Pidgin English, and culturally accepted modes to communicate.

Communication is an essential part of the Church; and as such, the Church is always in constant communication. To communicate effectively, she has plethora of the means of social communication to use. 

She has been mandated by Christ to reach to the utmost bounds of the earth to evangelize; and in doing so, she will constant need the presence of the Holy Spirit promised by Christ to communication. 

“We, therefore, invoke Our Blessed Mother Mary, who is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, to intercede for us in this mission of evangelization. May Christ, who promised to be with His Church till the end of time, always support and bless the efforts of the Church to evangelize our country, Nigeria; Amen!,” it concluded.

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