Church Communications Ecology Program welcomes inaugural cohort of Church leaders

Author: Caroline Murphy

The McGrath Institute for Church Life has launched a new program for Church leaders aimed at understanding the cultural shifts wrought by digital media technologies and developing prudent pastoral responses. The Church Communications Ecology Program (CCEP) is a 6-month educational formation program examining the ways that digital media is changing social, political, economic, and religious life and what those changes mean for parish communities. 

“Digital technology is a discarnate technology. We communicate without our bodies present to one another. This poses a challenge for a Church founded on the Incarnation of God’s only Son,” said Brett Robinson, director of the CCEP. “But criticizing digital technology’s undesirable effects is only part of the story. Our goal is to move from tech criticism to virtuous ways of living in this new environment that strengthen parish communities and draw people closer to the Church.”  

Twelve participants were selected from nine dioceses from across the United States. The inaugural cohort of Church leaders includes pastors, communication directors, lay ministers, and seminarians. 

The CCEP participants will complete a 6-week online course with theology, philosophy, and communications faculty from Notre Dame, Duquesne, and Mount Saint Mary’s University before receiving three months of coaching and mentoring that integrates insights from the course with local pastoral priorities. The program culminates in June 2021 at Notre Dame where leaders will share their transformational ideas with CCEP colleagues and faculty. 

“Revitalizing Catholic parishes requires paying attention to the forms of communication that lead to deeper communion,” said Robinson. “An awareness of the ways in which media and technology shape our social and psychological reality can equip us for enhancing Catholic identity, trust, and vitality at the parish level.” 

In July 2019, the McGrath Institute was the recipient of a planning grant from Lilly Endowment. The planning grant supported a summer symposium for more than 30 theologians and Church leaders to consider the impact of technological change on congregational vitality.

The Church Communications Ecology Program has been made possible by a $1M grant from the Lilly Endowment. 

The twelve members of the 2021 CCEP cohort are: 

  • Fr. José Emmanuel Arroyo Acevedo, priest and the parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist parish; Goshen, Indiana
  • Andrew Auletta, seminarian, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; Philadelphia, PA 
  • Jared Bryson, Vice President for Mission and Church Relations for Mercy Health System; St. Louis, MO
  • Michelle Fontana, Director of Marketing and Development at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church; Austin, Texas
  • Isaac Garcia, Director of Adult Evangelization and Catechesis; St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church; Austin, Texas
  • John Grosso, Director of Digital Media; Diocese of Bridgeport, CT
  • Lesley Kirzeder, freelance graphic designer and communications consultant; South Bend, Indiana
  • Matthew Kuna, seminarian, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary; Philadelphia, PA
  • Katie Pesha, strategic marketing and communications consultant; St. Louis, MO
  • Teresa Peterson, Executive Director of Communications; Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL
  • Vincent Reilly, Director of Faith Formation at St. Catherine Catholic Church; Orange Park, FL 
  • Father Francisco Quiroz, Vocations Director, Chancellor, and Moderator of the Curia; Diocese of Laredo,Texas

Contact: Brett Robinson, director of communications, McGrath Institute for Church Life, 574-631-6109, brobins6@nd.edu.

Originally published by Caroline Murphy at mcgrath.nd.edu on January 12, 2021.