Communication for Pastoral Leadership
The Church in India has considered social communication as one of its priorities. This became evident in the choice of the theme for the Catholic Bishops Conference of India’s (CBCI) 2004 General Assembly held in Trichur, Kerala, which studied the theme “Called to be a Communicating Church”. The final statement as well as the national pastoral plan for social communications which emerged as the fruit of this General Assembly, among other things, stressed the importance of formation of Church leaders in social communications.
The need for a comprehensive programme for the formation of seminarians and religious leaders was emphasised in many documents of the Church, more so since Vatican II. The Church in India recognised the importance of this when it set in motion the process to preparing a set of resource books to introduce communication in seminaries and formation houses.
India has 64 major seminaries of Philosophy and Theology, hundreds of minor seminaries. There are 253 Congregation for sisters (Apostolic and Contemplative), 17 Congregation for brothers and 64 Congregation for priests. There are 5735 major seminarians from different congregations preparing themselves for the priesthood.
But in the past too there have been efforts in several seminaries and formation houses to introduce communications in the formation programme. Such efforts were not always well coordinated or systematic. At times they lacked proper focus and continuity. In many instances communication training was limited to acquiring technological skills or knowledge about how to operate instruments of communication than integration of social communication in the formation of the person and one’s pastoral ministry.
The CBCI Office for Social Communications in collaboration with Don Bosco Communications-India developed the Communication for Pastoral Leadership course in consultation with several experts and Church organisations such as the CBCI Commission for Clergy and Religious, the Catholic Religious of India (CRI), the Association of the Rectors of Major Seminaries in India (ARMS), National Institute of Social Communication Research and Training (NISCORT), the two national Catholic organisations for communication, Signis-India, and Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). The Office also constituted an advisory committee which assisted the Commission in reviewing the course content. The programme outline and the modalities were studied and reviewed by the members of the Office, the Chairman Bishops and Secretaries in-charge of social communications in the Regional Bishops’ Councils.
It was decided to publish three different books contain materials suited to three distinct stages of formation. In the meantime, the Office sent out a questionnaire to the seminaries in India to assess what is being offered as part of communication training in the seminaries in India. The staff of seminaries were invited to suggest what they felt are priorities with regard to the subject.
The Office further got in touch with some of the important Church bodies involved in formation as well as individuals in the communication ministry. These included the CBCI Commission for Clergy and Religious, The CCBI Commission for Seminary Formation, The Catholic Religious of India (CRI), and the Association of the Rectors of Major Seminaries in India (ARMS), National Institute of Social Communication Research and Training (NISCORT), the two national Catholic organisations for communication, Signis-India, and Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA).
The Office set up a team of Experts on the subject of formation and social communication. This Expert Committee has about 30 members with rich experience and expertise to be able to guide and support the formation project and its implementation.