Continued from Last Week
Challenges of funding Church Communication
Before going into the challenges, please permit me to first and foremost recognize and appreciate the fact that there have been contributions from the authorities of the Church and laity to do something tangible albeit not enough in the communication Apostolate, considering increasing world population.
The presence of the various diocesan newspapers, a few radio stations and a very limited number of Catholic TV networks testify to the fact that something is being done on communication but they are grossly inadequate and in several cases grappling for requisite funds to stay afloat! T he challenges are mainly funding, insuff icient interest in communication and requisite manpower.
The following issues are worth considering and will definitely require further deliberations by all stakeholders for greater insights and an action plan going forward:
a) The hierarchy of the Church in Nigeria needs to pay greater attention towards deploying the various Communication tools for evangelization purposes. It is a matter of recognizing and prioritizing how effectively the mission of the Church can be achieved effectively in this age and time.
b) Communication as part of the curriculum.
The art of Communication should be taught at our seminaries and all formation houses since the Clergy and religious top the administrative cadres of the Church. There should be a deliberate policy to introduce communication studies as an integral part of their formations. Priests and religious people could be encouraged to attend short courses on the art and act of communication and be allowed to work in the communication Apostolate and train others.
c) It is unfortunate that many Diocesan Communication offices are barely functional due to none or poor funding. They lack offices and cannot even afford to employ capable hands and acquire modern equipment to work with. Some offices are even domiciled at the Priests’ residences and their meager allowances are deployed towards maintaining a glorified directorate of social communication in name only. This could be very, very frustrating to say the least!
d) All efforts towards compliance should be made by local ordinaries to ensure the yearly World Communications Day parish collections gets to the appropriate directorates of social communications with proper documentations of sources and application of such funds.
e) The Diocesan authorities need to directly and deliberately fund the various directorates using the budget systems with projections, targets and actual performances. A year/period could be dedicated to funding, the next to training and then equipping the directorates etc.
f ) Since funding is a major issue, the local ordinaries could attach the diocesan social directorates with paucity of funds to viable mega Parishes to fund specific projects of such directorates e.g. training, equipment, accommodation or outrightly twinning well to do Parishes to needy directorates and encouraging them to suspend one or two not so urgent physical infrastructural development like a new social event centre for a year or two in their Parishes.
g) Notwithstanding the contributions of SIGNIS International through the PMS in offering support to the communication apostolate with part financing of projects, donor fatigue has set in and priorities are changing. This is adversely affecting such sources of funds hence the need for the authorities of each diocese to take possession of the respective directorate and put in place, regular funding policies based on a percentage of the quarterly expected income of each diocese.
i) Much as physical development in the form of Church buildings, Father’s houses etc. are extremely important and must be provided where not available, there are some projects at Parish levels that could be delayed or shelved outrightly and earmarked funds redirected towards communication, capacity building, equipment purchase etc.
A diocese that has been in existence for upwards of 10 to 15 years, should be able to boast of at least one or two 4K cameras and a well equipped studio. Such social communication directorates can adequately cover diocesan events and distribute news to media houses.
Once properly established, they can internally self-generate income by taking care of video recording needs of their dioceses and laity in their respective dioceses. Funding Church communication can never be a waste ultimately!
j) From the pandemic experience last year, it has become obvious that a lot needs to be done in terms of Church media. It’s not an option, but a necessity!
k). The lay groups in the Church can also help to fund equipment purchase and studio set ups as a way of supporting communication Apostolate. Part of the budgets for social activities, etc, could be geared towards supporting their diocesan communication directorates. A directorate that fails to pay staff salaries for months due to paucity of funds for example, cannot be in a position to pay statutory dues to communication bodies like SIGNIS.
From my personal experience since the year 2013 when, relying solely on Divine tions development. Inexplicably, over a 100 years after Catholicism took its roots in our climes, the art and act of communications in the Church is still tottering! To facilitate such a historic conference, Lumen Christi Media Centre will be willing to provide venue, facilities and some logistics as a form of encouragement towards bringing this to reality with the help of God. It’s never too late to squarely address the various concerns that could propel catholic social communication to where it ought to be in Africa and beyond. NOW IS THE TIME! We can begin with the Nigerian Church! inspiration and providence, I plunged into the deep waters of Catholic TV broadcasting, I have come to realize that one needed and one still needs a deep pocket that only God can provide, particularly for a vision that came with a caveat that the proposed TV Network should never be commercialized but rather be dependent on God absolutely for all her needs. To God be the glory for these 8 years of existence without commercial adverts which is usually the money spinner for TV houses. For the period of about 3 years, when we were paying $15,000 US dollars per month to our overseas satellite service providers, I still did not grasp the need for a TV network fully until March of 2020 when corona virus suddenly emerged and became a pandemic. Several people who thought I was crazy and looked at me with concerns/derision for according to them, I was wasting so much money for a not – for – profit venture, came back in all fairness to apologize for their short sightedness not knowing, that I myself was just struggling to trust and obey as the old Catholic hymn goes.
The need for brainstorming
The authorities of the Church at the diocesan levels, the Bishops’ conferences, PMS, the Catholic Secretariats/National Directorate of communications and National Laity Councils, Church major Organizations with SIGNIS NIGERIA/ AFRICA, CAMPAN, CAEAN and other stakeholders, needs to as a matter of urgency and strategic importance, call for a National conference on Catholic Social communications in Nigeria and by extension Africa.
Let us have a major conference where all lingering issues on communication could be trashed towards proffering lasting and binding solutions to the myriads of problems mitigating against social communica The speed at which the entire world was locked down and places of worship closed last year when the COVID- 19 scourge began should never be lost in our minds.
Imagine not being able to attend Mass or visit the Blessed Sacrament for about 6 months back to back? Our Faith and spirituality would have been threatened beyond measure! We thank God who provided the various TV networks/ stations, radio and social media platforms that kept the lines of communication and hopes of the people alive as they were able to the glory of God, remain connected to their Faith even from their homes, when all was looking so gloomy and hopeless. May the good Lord bless us all and help the local Church in her quest to let the light of Christ shine farther afield in the continent of Africa, amen.
Thanks so much for listening to this very short epistle! Being a paper delivered at the 2021 SIGNIS Nigeria Convention, Port Harcourt, Nigeria on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
• Sir Soji Olagunju, KSG is the .Founder/Chief Executive, Lumen Christi Catholic Tv Network based in Lagos