When Sister Angela Zukowski heads to Port of Spain, Trinidad, this August for the weeklong Caribbean School of Catholic Communications, she will bring a wealth of knowledge from decades of work in the world of Catholic communications. Her numerous roles and titles these days include director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives at the University of Dayton, in Ohio, as well as president of the National Catholic Association of Communicators.
However, one position that she holds close to her heart is having been a part of the Caribbean School of Catholic Communications close to 20 years.
“I have been with the CSCC since its beginning,” she said. “I was invited by Archbishop Gordon Anthony Pantin in 1993 to work with the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad, and Tobago for designing an archdiocesan pastoral communications plan. One of the outcomes of the plan was the CSCC.”
Sister Angela, a longtime member of the Missionary Helpers of the Sacred Heart, says that the mission of the school is to prepare women and men to be effective, faith-filled communicators both in their parishes and within their diocese. This year, as in years past, around 50 students will come to Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, among other Caribbean nations.
Each year, the school offers five media-related educational tracks: audio, television, media education, journalism and Internet. A typical day includes Morning Prayer, both large- and small-group sessions and Mass in the evening. This August will mark the fifth year that Sherry Kennedy Brownrigg will serve as the instructor in the radio/audio track.
“The school is very unique, in that it gives a very well-rounded education in creating Catholic media following the guidelines of the Church’s documents on social communication,” said Brownrigg, president of the Kennedy Brownrigg Group, a media creative firm based in Omaha, Neb. “In other words, it teaches participants hands-on best practices of the craft, but also grounds them in their faith.”
Sister Angela told the Register that this faith-based grounding is key.
“I don’t think Catholic communications is all about the skills and tools; there is that element, (but) this school wants to teach the students how to use these tools and resources to communicate faith. For this reason, our school is grounded in theological, spiritual and biblical perspectives,” she said.
Brownrigg added that the Church calls people to work in Catholic media in ways that are very distinct.
“If we have a strong faith and understanding of the faith through media but do not pursue best practices, or if we are skilled at the craft of media but do not understand how the Church calls us to put forth Catholic media, we are missing one of the legs of the stool — and it just won’t stand,” she said.
Bishop Charles Jason Gordon of the Dioceses of Bridgetown Barbados and Kingstown, St. Vincent and Grenadines has been a driving force at the school since its beginning. Today, he serves as the principal.
“I am in charge of organizing the team and the staff and making sure we are up to date with all the emerging technology and that we have the best international faculty,” he said.
The school is run by the Living Water Community, an ecclesial Catholic lay community located in Port of Spain. The community is involved in a number of evangelization projects, including the Trinity Communications Network (TCN). Suzanne Dowdy has been a presenter for TCN since 1997.
She credits her media success to her time years ago as a student in the Caribbean School of Catholic Communications program. “The CSCC many years ago began a dialogue on how to embrace the rapidly emerging new media communications era. We have stayed the course, remaining focused and alert to the signs of the times. The school gave me the faith formation to be a missionary disciple.”
When asked why a similar formation program doesn’t exist here in the United States, Sister Angela related that in one sense the program did exist many years ago.
“At the University of Dayton, we used to have the Institute for Pastoral Communications up until 1996, in which hundreds of people went through the summer program,” she noted. “However, we ran out of funds.”
In the United States, says Brownrigg, colleges fill some of that role of teaching people how to be Catholic communicators. “However, there is nothing like this intensive school to help those who may not have access to college or who are being called to Catholic media after college.”
Because of this school’s pursuit of excellence, Bishop Gordon says that dioceses around the world often send their communications directors to the school to learn how to form a pastoral plan in their own area.
“I feel very honored to be a part of this school all these years,” he said. “I look forward to it every year. Especially the last day of the program, where the students have the opportunity to showcase all they have learned.”
Eddie O’Neill writes from
Green Bay, Wisconsin.