Comments of FAITH Catholic President and CEO Patrick M. O'Brien at the 2018 Catholic Media Conference
Once again, FAITH Catholic is proud to be a sponsor of the Thursday luncheon for the Catholic Media Conference. We thank Amy Kawula and the organizing committee for this year’s fine conference.
For a number of years now, I’ve had the opportunity to say a few words at this luncheon to expand upon that idea that we are more than just Catholic communicators. Our primary purpose is to be evangelists – content evangelists. At our best, we develop content that advances the Church’s mission, to form disciples who go out and evangelize.
The Catholic press association is at the heart of the Church’s mission. And by press, I mean print media. FAITH Catholic has access to a lot of data. We publish magazines for 30 dioceses across the United States, as well as nearly 20 other religious orders and Catholic organizations. We design and host around 40 Catholic websites, so we see those analytics. We run integrated marketing plans, so we have insight into the digital front, too. We’ve always done research. But that expanded this past year.
A few years ago, CARA looked at how Catholics consume Catholic media. At FAITH Catholic, we wanted to see if any of CARA’s findings had changed, so we conducted our own research. We looked at every diocesan Twitter and Facebook account, and every print publication. Our research is in the current issue of Content Evangelist magazine, which you’ll findin your bags. We verified a lot of CARA’s findings. The first take-away is that we have a lot of work to do on the digital front.The second take-away is that the reach of the Catholic press is tremendous.
Only two percent of Catholics follow anything Catholic on Twitter, 3.5 percent of Catholics follow diocesan Facebook. CARA says that only four percent of Catholics go to a diocesan website, five percent listen to Catholic radio and seven percentregularly watch Catholic television. Practically speaking, this means that if a diocese does not publish, 93 percent of Catholic homes will have no Catholic content. Yet the diocesan press alone reaches 24 percent of U.S. Catholic homes. And when a diocese sends its publication to every home, as 57 U.S. dioceses currently do, it reaches 100% of those homes.
Our work is not getting easier. The world is so complex. At times, it can seem like we are not making a difference. Rest assured, the Catholic press is stronger than you might think. And within our own group of dioceses whom we serve with magazine publishing, I see that the roles of Catholic media and Catholic publishing are becoming more critical to the mission.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a communications conference in Rome. For me, it was an eye-opening realization of the common challenges facing Catholic communicators from around the world. Speakers explored how truth itself seemed to be under attack. Name the hot-button issue and there were presentations on how to use strategic communications to advance Church teaching. It is clear that we need to master the swirl of issues and strategies, but my big take-away was not that.
For me, it was a reminder to get back to basics. It seems to me that before we can convince people of the Church’s teaching on any ethical, moral, societal or legal issue, we must first convince people of Jesus! Why would someone care about our Christian values if they first don’t care about Christ? Only 23 percent of registered Catholics go to Mass each weekend. So why would even Catholics care about our news and information if they don’t first care about being Catholic?
When our columnist, Father Joe Krupp, was ever confused or discouraged about something, his mother, Martha, would say,“Give them Jesus.” When we identify primarily as journalists or communications professionals, it can be easy to jump over Christ as a content priority. For a variety of reasons, it’s easy to prioritize news and information. But can we really exhaust how Christ works in people’s lives? It’s endless. Our research shows that, when you put Christ first, more news gets read.
We are more than merely journalists, communications directors, digital and broadcast media professionals. We are content evangelists, my friends. At our best, the Holy Spirit works through us to open minds and expand hearts for Christ. With content, we can help Catholics become disciples. And when those Catholics share our content, they become the evangelists.