Santa Croce University in Rome is offering a multifaceted communications course, emphasizing the importance of the field for evangelization, and preparing students for difficulties they may encounter.
“I would say that if Jesus had lived in the 21st century, he would have certainly used television, Twitter, Internet to communicate himself, because this is lived-in real world,” Fr. Sergio Tapio Velasco said in an inverview with CNA.
“He lives in the real world, and his Incarnation is real. So, as Jesus used, let's say, the common techniques of his era when he was here…He would have used them today.”
Fr. Velasco is originally from Mexico, but has been living and working in Rome for the last 20 years, and is in charge of the public speaking and media training program for the Church Communications School at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
Often referred to by its Latin name, Santa Croce is a university under the Curial Congregation for Catholic Education and is overseen by Opus Dei.
The course being offered is designed to train students to become directors of communication, and educates them by providing basic knowledge in all areas from the office, to radio and television interviews, as well as how to operate a camera.
Driving the program is the idea that when students come to the university, they come for a three year study period in order to get their license, Fr. Velasco explained, highlighting that “in the second year they have a public speaking subject.”
“Week by week, they will start delivering the speeches to defend some concept of Catholic doctrine, but not only,” he noted, revealing that “once we train them within a semester on public speaking, we start in the third year of their studies with this media training program.”
Each week “we give them a tough topic of the media, like natural marriage against gay marriage, or abortion and pro-life,” he continued, “and so we try to make them face real problems that they will face in the future, in communications.”
“And then week by week, what we try to do is tell them, ‘Well, today we will train you – for example – on giving simple and concise answers…’ so, little by little, within a semester, they receive at least the theoretical and practical instruments that will be useful for them in the future.”
Jorge Milan, who also teaches at Santa Croce as an associate professor of audio-visual communications, emphasized that the importance of combining both the technical and the humanistic side of media, so that students are given “the knowledge of all the Church,” but also practical skills.
“I try to prepare my students to help the professionals of radio and television to do their job, so they to understand how to use a camera, how to edit in a computer, how to, for example, do debates in radio and television.”
This helps them, Milan went on to say, not only to speak about the Church “but also to help journalists to do their job...to prepare a documentary with their bishops, because probably they will work in a communications office.”
By doing this, “they will be able to help the journalists when they want to do a documentary on some issue of the Dioceses, for example,” Milan observed, noting that the school “is for everybody: priests, seminarians, laypeople.”
Emphasizing how “the Church has been insisting since the Second Vatican Council on the need that we have of working on media, because it's very important,” Fr. Velasco insisted that although we cannot meet everyone in person, “through media communications I can meet thousands of people that in other circumstances would be impossible.”
“And that's important, no?” the priest expressed, highlighting that “It's a great” means “for spreading the Word of God.”
Referring to a professional seminar the university is hosting at the end of the month from April 28 – 30 in which participants will be updating their formation on Church communications, Fr. Velasco explained that the strategy will be to focus “on creating a cultural change.”
Among those slated to speak at the seminar are Cardinals Timothy Dolan who oversees the Archdiocese of New York, as well as other Church leaders who constantly deal with media and defend topics relating to the human being.
Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.