Gathering inspires journalists to meet readers’ needs


CHARLESTON The Diocese of Charleston hosted the Southern Regional Catholic Press Association Meeting last week, with several notable speakers advising members of the Catholic press how to better serve their readers. The meeting began Oct. 29 with a liturgy at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist at which Bishop David B. Thompson presided and Archbishop John P. Foley, visiting from the Vatican, delivered the homily.

Archbishop Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, asked members of the press to ponder truth, mission and unity three words that he described as “our vocation as Catholic journalists.” As a former member of the United States Catholic press, Archbishop Foley told close to 50 attendees, “We have an obligation, a mission as Catholic journalists, to make known the truth not only the facts about any given situation, but the underlying or, if you will, overriding Christian perspective in every event.” He asked that “good news” be reported human interest stories in which people respond as Jesus would have responded which would inspire others to change their own lives.

Thursday’s keynote speaker, nationally-known syndicated columnist James J. Kilpatrick, offered wise advise and several humorous anecdotes to attendees. He said, “Have something to say and say it clearly.” He said to use common language and knowledge to help readers better understand a story’s message.

Bishop Thompson introduced Archbishop Foley to the crowd that gathered for Thursday’s session and asked participants to accept the challenge as Catholic journalists to inform readers of events that affect the Catholic Church. Archbishop Foley provided a history of the Catholic press in America, “of which the Miscellany was not only the firstborn but indeed the inspiration,” in celebration of its 175th anniversary.

Archbishop Foley laid out five needs of Catholics and how the Catholic press can provide these needs. First, Catholics need to be informed on the local, national and international levels. “Second,” he said, “we need to be continually formed, … applying the teachings of Jesus to our daily lives as individuals, as member of families, as members of a wider society.” Third, Catholics need to be inspired from profiles on outstanding individuals. Fourth, Catholics need to be educated, or they “run the risk of becoming a peripheral Christian.” Fifth, Archbishop Foley said, “The smaller is our group in society, the more we must make an effort to reinforce the identity of the group.” He pointed out that this fact holds particular importance in South Carolina, which has a 3 percent Catholic population.

“It is important to have a Catholic publication, which can help both to define and to reinforce the Catholic identity of this minority,” said Archbishop Foley, “a publication, which can share the experience of other Catholics around the state, around the nation, around the world, and a Catholic publication that can provide a ready point of reference and indeed of pride.

“Readers of the Miscellany know what the Holy Father is teaching in the name of Jesus as the Vicar of Christ and they know of the achievements and sacrifices of their fellow Catholics around the nation and around the world,” said Archbishop Foley.

Other informative and inspirational presenters at the meeting included Joe Benton, native Charlestonian who was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of Georgia’s underprivileged children, and Ed Henninger, award-winning design consultant and director of OMNIA Consulting in Rock Hill. Director and editor-in-chief of the Catholic News Service, Tom Lorsung, and CPA executive director, Owen McGovern, provided insight into their future plans to help regional newspapers better serve their communities. Web page designers were also on hand to direct newspapers in getting on line.

The meeting was successful in updating regional Catholic newspapers on new and useful technologies and reminding participants of their purpose in serving Catholics. Archbishop Foley told attendees at Wednesday’s liturgy, “To report reality truly and to comment on it authoritatively, we should put on Christ Jesus, see as he sees, judge as he judges, live as he wishes us to live.”