Called to the Ministry of Communications

Posted By: Daniella Zsupan-Jerome Catholic Media Blog,

Called to the Ministry of Communications

I have worked in graduate-level ministerial formation for most of my professional life. One of the joys of this work for me is helping students discern and respond to the call to ministry, a profound and Spirit-led process that invites a person to Christ-like servant leadership in the community. Our classes are generally filled with people who bring a variety of ministerial interests: becoming clergy, or as a lay person engaging in pastoral administration, religious education, youth ministry, chaplaincy, social justice work and more.

Showing the art of communication to others…

In a recent course I taught on pastoral communication (an essential skill for any person in ministry!) I had the joy of welcoming as students two Catholic media professionals, serving in our local diocese. I will never forget the conversation I shared with one of them, who one day opened up about the term “ministry” and how this was a term not often used to describe the kind of work she did. Ministry in her experience was a term reserved for the clergy, and more recently, for those lay persons trained and commissioned to collaborate with them in ecclesial settings. Even if serving in a diocesan setting, can the work of a media professional be also considered a ministry? In my heart of hearts, this is a resounding yes.

How do these topics fit together?

Media professionals are faith communicators, and in this, stand in the lineage of the most ancient ministry of evangelization. Evangelization is communication of the faith, whether preaching, teaching or evangelizing (Eph 4:11-12), and is one of the earliest named ministries in the church, noted in the New Testament well before we developed more structured leadership roles and orders. Before early Christians built up, led and served their communities, they set out to share the good news of Jesus Christ. That same mission to communicate the faith remains the deepest identity of the Church today (Evangelii Nuntiandi 14) and something every baptized person is called into. For a media professional to stand in such proximity of the “Church’s deepest identity”, this carries an extraordinary calling. For the media professional, this calling is not only baptismal but also vocational, infused into both who one is and what one does. When such a person shares their gifts with the community, seeks to serve the Church and the Church’s mission, and has discernable training and ability for this work, this is ministerial territory for me. Calling media work a ministry: what difference does this make? Another student conversation from my classroom is etched in my memory.

The realization…

This time a more progressive-leaning person in a lecture questioned my enthusiasm about Pope Francis defining the lay ministry of catechists as a “ministry” in 2021. Who cares? they quipped. Just do the work as it has already been done by lay people for centuries. How does calling it a ministry change anything? Contrary to this, I believe naming a reality a particular way matters deeply. Called to ministry as opposed to a job or a profession, a person is brought into a Spirit-led space, a space of self-gift, charism and a deep love of community. Ministry binds us to the mission of the Church, and more profoundly, to the person of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd who lays down his life for the community. When we engage in ministry, our work is no longer our own, but becomes a self-gift for the building up of others. In ministry, we can also trust in God’s accompaniment of our work, especially the Spirit who graces us with particular gifts for the service of others. Calling our work a ministry, we are held and aided by grace and toward grace. Essential to ministry is the idea of calling or vocation.

We believe in a God who relates intimately and personally with humankind. We believe God communicated with us most fully in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who came to intimately take part of our existence. Our God is close and calls us forth to follow and to serve. When we are reflecting or discerning our professional path, it is eyeopening to frame this not as a personal interest but a response to an invitation. This invitation calls us to fulfillment through the sharing of our talents and abilities, and it is deeper still. The invitation is to life lived abundantly, in communion with God and others. Does calling work in the media a ministry matter? Another wholehearted yes as I offer these questions for your consideration: Does a sense of God’s presence and calling frame your day? Do you see your work in light of the broader mission of the Church? How do you think of your work as self-gift? Where have you sensed God’s Spirit giving you joy and animating your work?

Daniella Zsupan-Jerome Ph.D. is an assistant professor of pastoral theology and director of the Sustained Encuentro Program at Saint John’s University School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota. She is passionate about Catholic media and has taught many classes on social communication. She is the author of the book, “Connected Toward Communion,” in which she explores the question, how might we form pastoral ministers today for serving the church in the digital age and beyond? She will be writing a regular column in The Catholic Journalist.

This column originally appeared in the February 2024 edition of The Catholic Journalist.