Vatican Hails Nigeria’s ComWEEK Initiative

… Stories Shape our Thoughts, Convictions – Fr Anusi

By Mercy Hill

The office in charge of Communications in the Vatican has applauded the ComWEEK (Communications Week) Initiative recently approved by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN. The initiative nurtured by the National Directorate of Communications of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN, recently caught the attention of the Vatican.

Relating this in his goodwill message during a 3-day workshop/training organized for Diocesan and Religious Directors of Social Communications at the CSN, Abuja, Very Rev. Fr. Zachariah Sanjumi, Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, said the Directorate of Communications had made the Church in Nigeria proud by the ComWEEK initiative.

The workshop, with the theme: ”Capacity building for Media Literacy and Digital Presence”, began on Monday 21 March 2022 and continued till Thursday 24 March 2022.

The event which began formally on Tuesday 22 March 2022, kick-started with a Holy Mass presided over by Rev Fr Patrick Alumuku, the Social Communications Director of the Archdiocese of Abuja.

In a homily during the Mass, Rev Fr Justin Udoma, the Communications Director of Uyo Diocese, exhorted the congregation to imbibe the virtue of forgiveness, explaining that for one to receive forgiveness from the heavenly Father, the person had to erase all forms of hate from the heart.

The host, who is the National Director of Social Communications in Nigeria, Rev Fr Michael Umoh, welcomed all Directors to the workshop and urged them to seize the opportunity of the workshop to harness major skills that would be taught.

In his goodwill message at the opening ceremony, Very Rev Fr Zachariah Sanjumi, the Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, CSN, Abuja, commended the Directors of communication for the mediatory role they played in society and for their enormous contribution to bring sanity in the Church.

For his part, the Deputy Secretary General & Director, Pastoral Affairs, CSN, Abuja, Rev Fr Michael N. Banjo, noted that communication was at the center of Catholic Liturgy, citing some relevant laws that backed up the roles of communications. He however urged them to be communicators that reflected Christ and his teachings.

In his message, the Director of Pontifical Mission Societies, PMS, Rev Fr Solomon Zaku, appreciated the Directors for the jobs they did in their various dioceses and religious communities as he pledged his continuous support to the Social Communications Department.

In their separate speeches, the representative of the Catholic Media Practitioners Association of Nigeria, CAMPAN, Princess Ekwi Ajide, and that of Catholic Artists and Entertainers of Nigeria, CAEN, Comrade Amos Ogacheko, spoke on the need for better involvement of Catholic Directors of Communication in the various associations in their dioceses.

They explained that the associations suffered redundancy because they were abandoned by major stakeholders who were supposed to be of support. Princess Ajide noted that CAMPAN in the Southeast Region of the country should actively develop involving programmes for youth participation.

The National Director of Communications, Rev Fr Michael Umoh, called on Communications Directors to use all means available to them to improve media education and presence.

Fr Umoh noted that the aim of every communicator was to create an effective structure for the Church. He therefore noted that, he, together with his team, had launched the Catholic Church in Nigeria on the digital space by creating a mega dynamic and highly interactive social networking Apps, compatible with the web. One of the Apps, he said, was the Nigeria Catholic Network App.

He went further to explain that to improve media literacy, the Church had produced a syllabus that would be proposed for use in seminaries across the country.

He elaborated on ComWEEK, a new initiative of the Directorate of Communications at the CSN, Abuja, already approved recently by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN. The idea behind ComWEEK is to turn the annual World Communications Day into a week-long programme for the Church in Nigeria, with focus on grassroots mobilization and drive.

This, he noted, would get people involved and understand the power of the media and how it was able to build the human person, the Church, and communities.

Directors were introduced and trained on the use of the Nigeria Catholic Network Website and its mobile App. The facilitator, Mr. Godwin Onyekwelu, urged all to learn how to use the App and introduce parishioners in their various dioceses to the usefulness of the digital space.

He went further to plead with them to download the Nigeria Catholic Network App on Google Play store or Appstore to get information on the Catholic Church in their palms.

The third day of the event which began with a Holy Mass presided over by Rev Fr Kuher Indyer had as homilist, the Director of Fides Media, Rev Fr Dr Martin Anusi, who spoke on the power of stories.

His reflection was centered on the theme that we are called and sent to tell stories. He pointed out that the day’s liturgy reminded Christians of how storytelling was profound and fundamental in our lives.

He explained that what one knew and thought about others was informed by the stories heard or read about them. ‘Stories shape our thoughts and convictions,’ he noted.

Citing the last verse of the first reading at the Mass, Deut. 4:9, he said that God challenged his people that the only way they could make his Laws to them relevant to the present and future generations was by telling the stories of what God had done for them.

As a communicator, Fr Anusi described vocation as telling good stories.

‘Propagate stories about the Church and go about the goodness of humanity,’ he explained.

He went further to say that when a Christian told good stories, it did not mean there were no bad stories, but that good stories were also instruments to overcome the bad ones.

‘When you tell good stories, you are in line with the gospel of Christ and portraying the mindset of the good Lord,’ he said.

Describing prayers as communication, Fr Anusi noted that when we prayed, we were telling God to make our stories his story.

‘When we pray through the saints, we are telling them to help make our stories God’s story,’ he noted, adding that telling stories was like giving birth. ‘With stories, we conceive and give birth according to the nature of our stories,’ he concluded.

He prayed that God would make Communicators understand their vocation as good story tellers.

Highlights of the workshop/training were lectures on processes of audio and video editing by Rev. Fr Paulinus from Uyo Diocese, a zoom lecture by Rev Fr John Ipido from UK, who taught on how to create short documentaries; practical session by participants; presentation of participation certificates; gala night, among others.