- Association of Catholic Directors of Social Communications assumes new name, elects new Executives
Media workers in Africa have been challenged to seek meaningful ways of baptising the means of social communication amid the seeming threat of Artificial intelligence, AI. This call was made by the liaison Bishop in charge of social communications in the Catholic Church in Nigeria and Bishop of Lafia Diocese, Most Rev. David Ajang at the just concluded conference of the Association of the Catholic Directors of Social Communications in Nigeria which held at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Abuja.
The event which had the theme “Repositioning the Catholic Media Apparatus in Nigeria for an effective Communication Apostolate” was aimed at revamping ecclesiastical communication in the country and beyond. Gathered “in the spirit of synodality, to dialogue and review, Ajang, 53, stated that “With the digital technology, information travels faster than ever, connectivity bridges distances with great ease, and messages transcend borders with the speed of light. “The digital age gives us a chance to reach not only our congregations but to the broader society with a message of hope, compassion, and love.” The Bishop argued that “the advent of this new media channels therefore offers us an effective platform to share the Gospel of Christ like never before” while acknowledging that despite the great advantages in the means of communication, there are challenges which necessitate “a fresh and critical look at how the Catholic media apparatus should operate.”
According to the representative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), “the ever-evolving landscape of media and communication technologies, brought about by the digital technology, definitely necessitates a constant review of the Catholic media apparatus to ensure a synchronized, efficient, and effective communication apostolate.” He observed that, “The world is already talking about the 4th revolution with the birth of AI, which is already here” and asked, “how prepared are we to be part of this defining process which promises to impact greatly on the world and humanity? ” Ajang explained that the choice of the theme is “informed by the conviction that the Catholic Church has long recognized the importance of effective communication in its mission of evangelization and has been doing quite much in the past.”
Providing context, the Bishop said, “for instance, for 57 years now, every successive Pope has released a special message on media/communication for World Communications Day, teaching and encouraging Catholics and the world at largeonthe importance and the implications of the media in their lives; and on the need to seek formation as well as embrace the media.” The prelate further clarified that, “Over the years too, the Catholic Church in Nigeria has engaged various media channels, especially print and radio, and recently, the TV, to reach its members and communicate its message to a wider societyand established institutions and organs to foster this important venture. But today, we are faced with the dire consequences of the emergence of digital media, numerous social media platforms, and changing communication behaviors.”
The liaison Bishop who gave the vision of CBCN for communication as “to develop an integrated, effective and efficient communications structure for the Catholic Church in Nigeria,” called for collaboration. “As Communication Directors and media personnel, you hold a crucial role in shaping how our Church engages and develops the media for the mission. You must strive to undertake this responsibility in collaboration with your National Director, knowing that he acts in the name of the Bishops Conference and on their directives. We all must seek unity,” he underlined. The bishop of Lafia emphasized that the gathering is crucial because it is convened “in the spirit of synodality, to dialogue, review, and to take very critical decisions that will move not just the body of directors forward, but every other Catholic media body and the communications efforts of the Church in Nigeria.”
Meeting highlights “Church’s teaching on human communication” Speaking on behalf of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, the President of SIGNIS-Africa, Fr. Prof. Walter Ihejirika maintained that “the Directors of Communication at the National, Provincial, Diocesan, and the various Religious Congregations; play very important roles in the communication apostolate of the Church.” Describing the gathering as the heartbeat of human communication, which is dear to the heart of Pope Francis, Ihejirika stated that “Communication meetings like the one you are having, highlight the communion model which is at the heart of the Church’s teaching on human communication.”
The professor of development communication and media studies at Rivers State University Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria maintained that “SIGNIS Africa esteems highly the communication apostolate of the Nigerian Church. After DRC Congo, Nigeria was the second country in Africa to formally constitute SIGNIS asanational organization.” He recalled how last year in Rwanda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso were commended “for the initiative of constituting a Communication Week (COMMWEEK), where a whole week was dedicated for the celebration of the World Communications Day, instead of only on the Sunday” during the continental congress and general assembly.
The priest used the opportunity to expressgratitude to all for actively participating in SIGNIS Africa events and praised Nigeria for “always presenting the largest delegation” insisting that “indeed, Nigeria is setting the pace for the whole continent and showing thatsheis truly the giant of Africa.” On the need for collaboration, Prof. Ihejirika disclosed that “SIGNIS Africa pledges to continue to work with you” stressing that the body “will become redundant if we do not have your support. Working together, we can build a formidable and effective communication apostolate for the Church in Africa.”
Directors, image-makers of the Church in Nigeria In his speech, president of the association, Fr. Anthony Ijasan disclosed that the Association of the Catholic Directors of Social Communications in Nigeria began as a meeting of the Diocesan Directors of Social Communications, convoked, through the initiative of the then National Director of Social Communications, at the CSN, Lagos, Fr. Felix Femi Ajakaye, now Bishop of Ekiti Diocese. According to him, the first meeting which held at Pope John Paul II Pastoral Centre, Ado-Ekiti, on 17 October 2005 had 15 Directors from different dioceses in Nigeria in attendance. He, however, stressed that “the body became a fully constituted association under the administration of late Msgr. Ralph Madu as the National Director of the directorate on 19 February 2009.”
Fr. Ijasan maintained that for 18 years, the association has been at the fore front of being the image-maker of the Church in Nigeria stating that they have paid their dues in the communication-apostolate in the West African nation. “I wish those coming behind us the very best. I pray the Good Lord to grant the in-coming Executive the grace to lead and take the Association to greater heights, improve on our little successes, and correct our undeliberate mistakes,” said he. Highpoint of the event was the blessing of a mobile editing van bought with support from the Pontifical Mission Societies through the instrumentality of the National Director of Communications, Fr. Dr. Michael Umoh.
New officials who would serve the association for a single term of four years were elected. They include Fr. Dr. Andrew Dewan, President, Sr. Theresa Guzuma, Vice President, and Fr. Anthony Adetayo, secretary. Others include Sr. Francisca Opara, Assistant Secretary, Fr. Augustine Ikwu, Treasurer, Fr. George Adimike, Financial Secretary and Sr. Eunice Ikufisile, Public Relations Officer. Formally known as The Association of the Catholic Diocesan Directors of Social Communications in Nigeria, the communication organ of the Church in Nigeria took the name The Association of the Catholic Directors of Social Communications in Nigeria, to accommodate male and female religious directors of communication. The body meets twice a year in February and October under the coordination of the National Director of Communication at the CSN Abuja to push the frontiers of communication apostolate across the country.