“Let’s bring the example of St. Francis de Sales to modern-day communication” | Helen Osman, SIGNIS President, at the St. Francis de Sales Days
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The 26th St. Francis de Sales Days is an annual event that takes place in the city of Lourdes, France. It is organized by the Fedération des Médias Catholiques, SIGNIS, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, and the Italian Union of Catholic Press, with the aim of gathering Catholic communicators and media associations from around the world to discuss the most pressing topics on today’s communications world.
This year, SIGNIS President Helen Osman intervened during one of the Study Days sessions under the topic “Are we the voice of the Church?”. This conference-debate meant to understand the combination between the journalists’Catholic identity and duty to inform and how to combine editorial identities with the ecclesial institution.
Ms. Osman’s intervention was inspired by her being a mother and a grandmother. She affirms that a lot of what she has learned as a Catholic communicator comes from being a mother and having to communicate with her children “I communicate best when I listen well to those with whom I want to communicate. It’s more than dialogue; it’s trying to understand the other person’s perspective, their worldview, their pain, and their joys”.
Helen recalls Pope Francis’ Message for World Communications Day 2022, “listening with the ear of the heart”. “Listening could be called the most challenging thing we humans experience. Active listening, real listening, sets aside my ego and agenda. I listen with the ear of my heart, not to prepare a response or to compare what I am hearing with what I already know, but just to listen. Listening then is essential to being human - and therefore, essential to what makes us Catholic”.
So, we must see the Church as a mother who shall listen to the loving criticism of her children, “it’s not enough to have voices if we don’t listen, and the Church must listen to each of us”. And for Helen, those voices that for decades have been silenced, ignored, or put aside, are now being heard in the synodal process.
Synodality is described by the Holy See as “walking together”. That phrase brings to Helen’s mind the story in Scripture of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, and encountering Jesus. In their walking together, they listen to each other, Jesus listens to them, and they listen deeply to Jesus. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” the disciples ask one another after Jesus leaves them.
“As I discern what our Holy Father and the Holy Spirit are asking of the Church in this synodal process, I often find my heart burning, too. When we communicate deeply, on a spiritual level, when we listen not just to the words, but to the experiences of others, our entire self – mind, body and spirit -- becomes engaged in the communication. The synodal process creates communion through communication”, says Helen.
“I hope and pray we have the courage to listen to the Holy Spirit, who I believe is speaking through the synodal process, to enlarge the space of our tent, to spread out our tent cloths unsparingly, lengthen our ropes and make firm our pegs. Then we will, indeed, be the voice of the Church”, she concludes.