Catholic Media Conference goes virtual

Compass staff member helps plan Vatican panel discussion; Pope Francis sends message

ALLOUEZ — The COVID-19 pandemic forced Catholic media professionals in North America to cancel their annual conference, which was scheduled for June 29-July 2 in Portland, Ore. Members of the Green Bay Diocese’s communications team planned to attend the Catholic Media Conference, “CMC 2020.”

In its place, a virtual conference was held June 30-July 2. Theme of the online event was “Together While Apart.” Amy Kawula, advertising and marketing manager of The Compass, oversaw planning for the virtual conference. She serves as vice president of the Catholic Press Association (CPA), which sponsors the annual CMC gathering, and is chair of the Catholic Media Virtual Conference Task Force.

A highlight of the virtual CMC event was a keynote panel presentation from the Vatican on Tuesday, June 30. The panel, moderated by Julianne Stanz, director of parish life and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, included Dr. Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communications; Dr. Natasa Govekar, Dicastery for Communications, theological-pastoral director; and Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary general of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

While the virtual conference was a first for the CPA, so too was a special message delivered to communicators who gathered around laptops and computer monitors. Pope Francis offered the first-ever papal message to CPA members, expressing his support for their service to the church.

“Before all else, I would like to express my closeness to those who have been affected by the (COVID-19) virus and to those who, even at the risk of their lives, have worked and continue to work in assisting our brothers and sisters in need,” he said in a letter shared with members during the welcome session June 30.

Pope Francis said that the coronavirus pandemic “has shown how essential is the mission of the communications media for bringing people together, shortening distances, providing necessary information, and opening minds and hearts to truth.”

Today, the church urgently needs media professionals who are “capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities,” said Pope Francis. “We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home. We need men and women of conviction who protect communication from all that would distort it or bend it to other purposes.”

Kawula said that the pope’s message to communicators was made possible by Govekar, who was a keynote speaker at the Catholic Media Conference held in Green Bay in June 2018. “We were delighted to not only have three Vatican officials on the welcome keynote panel,” she said, “but to receive a letter from Pope Francis — it simply was absolutely incredible.”

During the pandemic, a time when communicators “have worked harder than ever before, the encouragement, support and affirmation expressed by Pope Francis to members displays unity in the Holy Spirit, the ministry of Catholic communicators and the world,” she said.

“Every communicator will leave this conference feeling united in the church and encouraged to speak truth in love,” Kawula added. “We are ‘Together While Apart’ not only this week, but forever in this Catholic family of communicators.”

To read the text of Pope Francis’ message to CPA members, visit https://www.catholicpress.org/page/PapalMessage