MANILA, Jan. 24, 2014—For a person who has spent most of his life in the world of communication, nothing could be more exhilarating than knowing you are impacting people’s lives through it.
That is what Vatican Radio director Sean Patrick Lovett, said at the sidelines during a social media workshop for the bishops at Pius XII Center, Jan. 22.
Lovett, who as a child realized he never wanted to do anything else but to be involved in the media and communication, said it is exciting “to be able to share my experience and knowledge with the bishops and to know that through them, you’re changing the image of the church and the country.”
Vice-president of CREC (Centre for Research and Education in Communication) and Director of Vatican Radio’s English Programme, Lovett conducted a three-day seminar-workshop for the bishops on Jan. 21-23 upon the invitation of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
“You are really impacting, you’re touching people and their experiences. It’s the greatest feeling you can have because it gives meaning to your existence. You go away thinking, Gosh, you know, it’s all worthwhile in the end,” said Lovett.
He was obviously as thrilled as the bishops who have shown so much enthusiasm in learning how to use social media, especially Facebook.
“I have never seen group of bishops so happy when they left the room at the end of the session,” Lovett said, noting that even during the break, many bishops did not want to go for snacks because they were so taken up in what they are doing “they could not leave their laptops and their tablets.”
In an earlier interview, Lovett admitted that “it is difficult sometimes to convince bishops to engage in social media.”
In the same interview, he referenced Pope Francis’ saying: “If the bishops want to be a true pastor, they really need to smell like a sheep, and if the sheep smell like social media, the bishop should smell like social media too.”
But his experience of the recent seminar proved that Philippine bishops, although most of them unskilled in using social media and other modern gadgets, were willing to learn overcome their biases to be able to connect with the faithful.
“It’s funny but the reality is that most of the bishops who are not media savvy, who do not have much experience about media came away from the session this morning not only with a greater awareness of the medium and not only with the realization that they can do it but [also] the desire, the passion to use this new media, the social networking to stay connected with their young people especially interact with them, and to inspire them in a new way,” Lovett said.
Lovett, who has given seminars to many bishops in various parts of the world, noted the diversity of age groups and experiences.
“We have one bishop [this morning] who does not have a cellphone, and by the end of the morning he had a Facebook account,” he observed with amusement during the feedback session.
“This is reality, this is what we experience. We had other bishops who were seeing their websites for the first time, who were able to assess critically their own websites and choose to decide what messages, what images they wish to project and how to connect better in Facebook,” he added.
For Lovett, nothing can surpass the excitement of seeing the transformation among the bishops—of seeing “their eyes literally light up with excitement almost like a child, with discovery, with the realization that [learning and navigating social media] is much easier than they thought.”
“The biggest thrill of doing this is to see the transformation inside and not outside. Most of bishops have the gadgets. They have the tablets, they have the Macbook, they have all the instruments, but they don’t have the skills or desire to use these instruments to their best capability,” he said.
For Lovett, who was into radio for the first time as a child when he was 5 years old, said communication is his life.
“I never want to do anything else but to be involved in the media and communication,” he said.
A multi-awarded communicator, Lovett has taught Communications courses at the Pontifical Gregorian University for 25 years.
Pope Benedict in 2011 made him a Papal Knight in recognition for his 35 years of service to four Popes, beginning with Paul VI.
He was named Catholic Communicator of the Year by the University of Dayton in 2012 and Christendom College awarded him the St. Thomas More Medal for Defence of the Faith.
Together with Lovett, during the three-day seminar was Fr. Jerry Martinson, SJ, an experienced trainer in the field of communications and media and formerly Vice President of the International Catholic Association of Film and Audio Visuals.
Some members of the Pauline Family—Society of St. Paul, Daughters of St. Paul and Pious Disciples of the Divine Master—participated as facilitators during the workshop. (PB / CBCPNews)