Teaching the faith within the digital media culture can be an immense challenge. Parents and teachers wonder how to communicate the essence of what we believe while competing with Snapchat, Minecraft, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and every superhero film that exists. Our catechesis does not need to be removed from these cultural experiences. Instead we have to make them integral by teaching our youth how to think about media consumption and the messages it communicates. Media mindfulness is media literacy education from a faith perspective. It takes the critical thinking skills and principles of media literacy, such as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media messages that we encounter daily, and brings our values and the Gospel values into conversation with those messages.
It is about asking questions of the media we consume and create, allowing us to think more deeply and consciously of our media environment.
Developing these skills are essential for this digital age, since we are not born with discernment proficiencies. Media mindfulness, then, is a catechetical imperative. Therefore, our teaching of the faith has to be understood and lived within a media culture in order for it to be integrated into the minds and hearts of our youth today. The Church has called for media literacy education within our catechesis, but unfortunately ministers and teachers are at a loss as to how to actually do that.
The Pauline Center for Media Studies offers resources and support to make this integration happen for people of all ages. For those responsible for areas of faith formation, though, an intensive course gives concrete and practical methods for that to happen on the parish and school level. Every summer in Los Angeles, our Media Studies Center offers a week-long course for anyone interested in bringing media mindfulness into their faith formation programs. This year’s course will be from July 19 to 25, 2020. This advanced certification course provides intensive classes on media literacy education, theology of popular culture, philosophies of the media, and the methodology of media mindfulness.
People of all ministerial backgrounds find this course to be invaluable in their own ministry development. John Osman, PhD and RCIA director explains, “The Pauline Sisters combine their expertise in theology and pastoral practice with media theory and application to train pastoral leaders.” He continues, “I have not only learned new teaching methods and techniques related to media but have also gained a considerable number of new media resources.” Catherine Brown, a DRE, says, “This course was fantastic. The knowledge the sisters shared was phenomenal. I will be able to share this with all the ministries in my parish. I was academically and spiritually enriched.”
Teaching the faith today cannot be separate from our everyday experience, and our everyday experience is immersed in the digital media culture. God is present there and the more we take that sacred look the more we can be an evangelizing presence in the world that so desperately seeks for what is beyond this material existence. Our world yearns for the supernatural, for God! And each of us, by our baptismal call, can point the way, even and especially in the popular media culture.
by Sr. Nancy Usselman, FSP