“In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
If we contemplate this declaration that opens the Gospel of John we develop a profound appreciation for the identity of the word as the fundamental means of communication with the Word as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Not only is Truth intellectually grasped, albeit in a limited way, it can be – indeed by its nature must be – communicated, for a word connotes not just what is spoken but a speaker and a hearer. Truth is also something that is not to be contained. Isaiah exclaims: “Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations” (Is. 49:1). The Word is to be communicated and it is to be communicated in words throughout the world. For two millennia this communication was essentially done from the pulpit and – later – the printing press.
Now, more than ever, the Daughters of St. Paul recognize the power – constructive or distractive – of communications.
In 1915 Fr. James Alerione (1884-1971) – now beatified – founded the Daughters of St. Paul in Alba, Italy along with Teresa Merlo who became the community’s first Mother General. At the dawn of that new century Fr. Alerione had a mystical experience in which he felt called to a new form of evangelization (“written preaching”) using “instruments provided by human ingenuity”, namely modern devices of communications. (With such forward thinking how pleased he must have been with the aggionamento of Vatican II which he was able to attend toward the end of his life!)
Today, a century later, the Daughters of St. Paul are present on five continents and in fifty nations with a total of 260 communities worldwide comprising more than 2500 related members including several hundred young women in formation. According to its website (www.pauline.org) the Daughters of St. Paul province situated in the United States and English speaking Canada has 140 sisters who communicate the good news of the Gospel in a wide variety of media-savvy ways such as fifteen Pauline Books and Media Centers, a publishing house, recording studios for music and radio, a screenwriting sector, The Pauline Center for Media Studies Center, the JClub (Jesus Club)Book Fairs and website, and a virtual bookstore.
Now, more than ever, the Daughters of St. Paul recognize the power – constructive or distractive – of communications. They understand the rapid developments of these digital times and have become recognized leaders in the effective use of this technology as they “reach out” to men, women and youth in our media saturated culture. What an advance in evangelization there would be if communications directors in dioceses were able fully to engage the expertise and creativity of these nuns!
The materials they provide and disseminate rest on four foundational premises. One is a theological anthropology (theology of the body) which fosters the full growth and respect of the person in all dimensions: biological, sexual, psychological, spiritual and communal. The second is a dialogue between faith and culture. As their website states: “The split between the Gospel and culture is without doubt the drama of our time.” The proclamation of the Gospel is necessary to foil all those forces in our culture that impede the plan of salvation.
The third is a prophetic call to unity. The Pauline mission considers the polarization within the religious community to be deeply contrary to our faith. The fourth is a clear: Identity in the midst of fragmentation. We swim in a sea of conflicting values and each of us needs that clear and strong self-identity that arises from a commitment to the Gospel if we are to create a culture of hope and solidarity.
It is a fair statement that the Church generally is behind the times when it comes to the use of the media. It is also true that most of the content so easily transmitted by the media is secular at best. Aware of this, Pope Benedict XVI has written: “More than by our technical resources, necessary though they are, we wish to identify ourselves by inhabiting the digital universe with a believing heart which helps to give a soul to the endless flow of communications on the internet.”
As explained in their literature, the Daughters of St. Paul are mindful that media are flexible, accessible to a variety of people, and interactive to the point of being transformative. As such, and following the example of their patron saint, the Daughters of St. Paul enter the world of media to evangelize.
There are new pulpits in the advance of the Kingdom.