Before we delve into the in-depth study of the text, Fr. Gildasio, could you explain what was the idea behind the origin and perspective of this new document?
For us Salesians, it’s important to walk with young people and with the times. The theme of Social Communication, historically, is fundamental to the Salesian mission. Communication is always at the service of the Salesian charism and mission.
We know very well that the world of digital technology is constantly changing. It is the sector that’s developing the most in the world today. And these changes impact human life, interpersonal relationship, community life, in the way of educating and working.
A question we have always asked with our communication delegates and their teams: how to renew a document on communication considering that the digital technology is always changing? It is true that we have to consider this reality, but we want to give some guidelines on communication, in line with the action plan of the Rector Major and his Council. In January 2023, we presented in the General Council meeting the framework of the document for discussion and suggestions.
I think this renewed document will help us in our fraternal communication, in communion with people, and in our pastoral educational mission with the laity and youth. I, together with Fr. Harris Pakkam, Fr. Maciej Makuła, and Fr. Ricardo Campoli - we are closely accompanying this work.
Why renew the Salesian Congregation's Communication document?
The Salesian System of Social Communication (SSSC) document was first published in 2008 and in 2010 in its second edition, to be a guide for Social Communication in the Salesian Congregation.
This text has been an important and necessary reference regarding communication in the Salesian Congregation, but it needed a major change, both in its conceptual corpus and in its organizational structure and practical guidelines.
What were the motivations for renewing it?
The renewal of this document is of utmost importance, considering:
- The enormous change in communication in these last 15 years through the development of digital, social networks, and sociocultural changes in the universe of the young.
- That the Church, in recent years, during the magisterium of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, has broadened its vision of communication, especially since the annual messages for the World Day of Social Communication, Ethics in Internet, the Youth Synod, Laudato Sì, Fratelli Tutti, and Pope Francis' Global Compact on Education.
- The request of the last two General Chapters - GC27 and GC28 - and the Rector Major's Action Plan for the 6-year term, proposal number 3: Living the Salesian Sacrament of Presence.
- The importance of broadening the vision of communication starting from its charismatic dimension, its mission, and from the educational-pastoral and ecclesial vision of communication, in line with the Salesian Youth Ministry Framework.
- The need to follow the wake of communication starting from a formative commitment, with a clear Salesian identity for the Salesians of the present and future and the missionary dimension of communication.
- The importance of better systemizing and organizing Salesian institutional communication.
So, is it a matter of expanding the vision of communication and updating it, starting from the digital world?
The SSSC document has been an important text for reference for the growth and organization of communication; however, it doesn’t reflect the changes in digital communication and social networks, and other dynamics of digital and institutional communication. Hence, it was necessary to expand and renew the document (SSSC) with a clearer and more consistent vision of the educational-pastoral dimension of social communication, in line with the vision and orientations of the Youth Ministry Frame of Reference that engage the new current pastoral needs, and it was also necessary to update the orientations and organizational part of communication.
What is the principal objective of this renewal?
Starting from these motivations, the objective is to renew the SSSC document in accordance with the orientations of the Magisterium of the Church and the Salesian Congregation, remaining faithful to our tradition and our communicative heritage, to educate and evangelize, while responding with Salesian style to the social and cultural changes of the new generations in the digital world.
Who was entrusted with this work?
The Communication Department has been entrusted with the elaboration of this document, beginning with the request of the Rector Major for a thorough study of the digital habitat:
"Engage the Social Communication Department, at various levels, in offering resources and stimuli for a constant process of verification, updating, inculturation of the Salesian mission in the digital habitat where young people live, involving our universities in a network with other centres and agencies that more closely follow and study the transformations that the digital world is bringing among the new generations. (Action Plan No. 3 - "Living the Salesian Sacrament of Presence").
What has been the journey so far and what are the processes still underway?
When we started, we received many suggestions from the previous team to renew the text of the Congregation on Communication. From January 2021, until last November, we solicited and received proposals and suggestions from Provincials, Salesians, and media experts. Then, at the World Advisory Council on Social Communication, held in Lisbon in November 2022, we presented a synthesis of the contributions. We are currently working on writing the first draft of this document, which we hope to present to the General Council for January 2024, in order to have new guidelines and proposals. The final intention is to submit it to the Council a second time, for approval, in July of the same year.
What is the methodology used for this renewal?
From the outset, the methodology included is the participation of a large number of Communication Delegates, people in charge of Salesian Bulletins, Publishing Houses, and Social Media, through the in-depth study of communication issues (School of Communication) and suggestions for the elaboration of the Instrumentum Laboris of Communication (in its biblical, ecclesial, Salesian, convergent and institutional dimensions).
Can you give us a few examples regarding the themes covered in the document?
Following the orientations of Salesian spirituality and educative-pastoral methodology, the document opens with the theme: dwelling in the social and cultural environment of young people, starting with Valdocco as the home that welcomes, educates, and communicates beginning with the love of God and the centrality of young people. The following are then discussed: the protagonism of young people in the construction of the educational, communicative, and artistic environment together with Don Bosco; the Salesian sacrament of presence and the interweaving of the network of human and social communication in the Valdocco Oratory; the Oratory as a prototype of human and social digital communication ecosystem; young people in the digital habitat: language, personal media, transmedia platforms, games, artificial intelligence.
In the second chapter, we present Jesus as the communicator of life and hope in the journey to Emmaus. For example, the pedagogy of accompaniment, of dialogue, and listening. The dynamics of freedom, of responsibility, and critical spirit in the digital world. Personal encounter and the pedagogy of community communication. Christian anthropology as a foundation for human-digital communication.
Another chapter is dedicated to social communication in the educational-pastoral mission; another on communication as a process and system of creation, production, information, and formation; and the identity, systemization, and visibility of Salesian institutional communication.
Clearly, other themes will also be developed for this document.
Who are the priority recipients of this text?
All Salesians of Don Bosco, lay people, young people, all those who generally collaborate in carrying forth the Salesian mission. Certainly, it will also be of interest to Social Communication Delegates and their teams, but it should not be conceived as a "technical" text, for specialists. It is a broader thing; inside, there’s how to evangelize and educate today with communication.
Finally, Fr. Gildasio, tell us: what is your dream regarding this new document for social communication in the Salesian Congregation?
Don Bosco was a great communicator. Communication is an important dimension of our charism and our mission. From the very beginning until today, Salesians in all parts of the world have always dedicated themselves to communication in its different expressions: the Salesian Bulletin, radio, publishing houses, artistic production, communication centers, sites... and many others.
It is important that the new document is in line with the educational and pastoral proposals of the Church and the Salesian Congregation today, within this immense and complex universe of social and cultural diversity in which young people live.
And it is important that indeed the new document is capable of helping to form the new Salesians well; to give them a deep understanding of the reality, challenges, and opportunities of communication; to foster their capacity to be responsible, critical, and creative in the use of the tools of today and tomorrow; a means that so many Salesians and our collaborators can avail themselves of to render our mission ever more alive and effective.
I hope this new document will help us to be communicators at the service of life, fraternity, of justice, and peace in a changing world that demands from us a strong Salesian identity, competence, and creativity.