Duc in Altum. Many will recall these written words of Pope John Paul II who, citing the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, urges us to be trusting and bold as we “put out into deep water” in order to grow and to develop and to help others do likewise.
Today ‘networking,’ which is much more sophisticated and connected than that available to the Archbishop a half century ago, has become a function critical to most of our routine activities, be they personal, social, commercial, or even charitable.
The passage is familiar. Jesus’ disciples, experienced fishermen, are tired and frustrated by a night of fruitless toil on Lake Gennesaret. Jesus instructs them to “set out into the deep and let down your nets.” When Peter complies – only because Jesus has bid them to do so – they catch a “great multitude of fish.” Their trust and confidence were rewarded.
The imagery of catching fish, of being “fishers of men,” is rich. It attaches special significance to the symbolism of a net – that harvesting device cast indiscriminately over a large area with the purpose of catching both the expected and the unexpected. Readers old enough to remember him will agree that Archbishop Fulton Sheen effectively employed the power of “the net” as he engaged and evangelized thousands of households via television networks in the 1950s.
Today ‘networking,’ which is much more sophisticated and connected than that available to the Archbishop a half century ago, has become a function critical to most of our routine activities, be they personal, social, commercial, or even charitable. And, many organizations necessarily rely on this form of outreach to promote their causes. One ministry that began harnessing the power of networking early on is Wordnet Productions (www.wordnetproductions.com) founded by Fr. Michael Manning in 1978.
Fr. Manning is a member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), an international missionary community with 6,000 members serving in 55 countries – principally preaching the Gospel. Headquartered in San Bernadino, California, where its productions studios are located, Wordnet identifies its mission as follows: “Embracing the transforming power of the Gospel, we communicate the Word of God to all people through media in the spirit of the Society of the Divine Word.” It is a Catholic television ministry dedicated to bringing God’s Word to all. Significantly, Wordnet strives to reach common ground with people of all faiths while reflecting Christ’s commitment to the poor.
Anyone familiar with Wordnet’s work (or visits its website) will agree that the volume, diversity and multi-lingual outreach of its programs are impressive, touching on subjects as varied as biblical spirituality, social justice, and Church teaching. These programs are available weekly in over a million households through broadcast, cable and satellite systems. They are also distributed internationally via satellite and internet. Nationally recognized, Fr. Manning is frequently sought by the public media to be a panelist on interfaith topics. One has only to hear him speak to understand his appeal.
In addition, as its website states, the facilities of Wordnet Productions are available for utilization by dioceses to encourage increasing use of the media for evangelization and catechesis.
More than 30 years ago, Fr. Manning trusted Providence and “put out into deep water” by launching and guiding an enterprise that today attracts regularly thousands of viewers, expected and unexpected. More than ten years ago he and Wordnet’s Executive Director, Sr. Pat Phillips, of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, took another trusting step when they established a Wordnet fund at the National Catholic Community Foundation. They were among the first to do so and we at NCCF are grateful for their confidence.
Trust and confidence. May these qualities displayed on the shores of Gennesaret so long ago in the presence of Jesus be enhanced by the power of networking and continue to strengthen the advance of his Kingdom.