Dear confreres and friends,
The suffering of our brothers and sisters in Hati is
deeply moving. The images and news items we see and read let us see but
a part of the human suffering involved. God himself suffers with his
children and we show our solidarity in faith with them through prayer
and communication, which in the midst of their pain shows up the best
of our humanity and opens them and the world to hope. In the human
being there is a deep undercurrent of love which goes beyond race, culture,
creed. This world has a future when there is solidarity and fellowship.
The Salesian Congregation and the Salesian Family
have been given timely information through ANS, both of the events
unfolding and the initiatives and coordination of aid for our confreres
in Haiti.Through their web pages many provinces have done the same,
following up the work of the Agency. Congratulations for this
networking effort and thus for promoting the rebuilding of a people who
will only have a future if they find solidarity with others. It will
make us all more human and humane.
A reminder of the (Feast of) the great communicator and patron of
communications in the Church, St Francis of Sales, whose name we bear
and whose communications heritage we pursue in a world so different
from his. He continues to be a reference for us as he was for our
Father Don Bosco: a convinced evangeliser, kindly educator,
communicator par excellence.
They are our models, now the challenge is ours to respond to new
generations, a new culture. It is up to us to incarnate the Gospel,
Jesus Christ, amongst today's digital natives. I am sure that St
Francis of Sales and Don Bosco will continue to accompany us on this
You will find good news in this Newsletter.
Until next time,
Fr Filiberto González Plasencia sdb
General Councillor for SC
Information: Communications logistics at a time of humanitarian disaster
the world, and the Salesian world in our case, is endeavouring to
measure up to one of the worst humanitarian disasters (Haiti) in recent
times, affecting us directly, here is an insight into just one aspect
of that from a Salesian perspective: the logistics of a massive
Congregational communications exercise.* In Rome, the Communications and Mission Departments with their separate but combined resources of personnel, contacts;
We all see the regular updates on ANS. What is
behind all of this? At least the following elements in this
* The appointment of one or more central information-flow points.
In this case, other than information coming directly to the Rector
Major or his Vicar, the establishment of Salesian Missions, New
Rochelle, US, as coordinating Centre. Other Salesian NGOs with direct
involvement already either in Haiti or nearby Dominican Republic are
continuing their efforts, but share information with the 'central'
flow-point. Fr Mark Hyde and his team provide as many updates as
* The partnership, in the case of Salesian Missions, with a major communications agency
for non-profits. In this case the 'Shoestring Creative Group'
which prepares press releases for US territory, keeps open lines with
major information agencies, vets material coming through (e.g. care has
to be taken with photos);
* Precise identification of locations (Google Earth) and matching these up with photos or videos appearing in mainstream media;
* Provision of communications experts 'in situ' (for example VIS has sent two comms experts to Haiti, coordinated from Salesian Missions).
* Correction of misinformation. For example a major Catholic agency reported '200
seminarians' presumed dead under the rubble at ENAM. The issue was not
the number but the 'seminarains'. The source of the
information was contacted, the correction provided, then other major
agencies in other parts of the world who had repeated the
misinformation were asked to correct (all complied)
* Tracking down those who use the data with malintent (massive movement of information, materiel, funds invites scams)
* Appropriate use of what we have come to term 'personal and convergent' media,
anything from YouTube to cellphones. This has involved getting
communications devices that can work under the circumstances into
Haiti, the opening of channels onCNN iReport, YouTube, FaceBook and others. Some of this is done through 'Shoestring' but other
channels have been opened by other communications departments
(Salesian) at local levels around the world
* Providing Radio interviews where requested (a case in point is the BBC Radio 5 interview with GBR Vice Provincial)
* Conduit or message relay:
many people around the world contact the SC Department in Rome
seeking information, wanting to help, wanting to pass on
information which needs to be vetted/channelled appropriately;
* Preparation of educational material (Presentations, multimedia, print material) which can
help the immediate and long-term need for aid by moving hearts and minds;
* The multiple and varied communications exercises involving any of the above and more at local province level, much of which is then reported to ANS or the SC Department through normal means: correspondents, newsletters, web sites...
* ..and translation. Always translation!.
Formation: BOSCOM online project launched, 23rd January
The BOSCOM PROJECT
is an initiative of the Salesians of Don Bosco from English-speaking
countries working in Media and Communications. It is created to assist
formation personnel with ideas, lesson plans, and resources so that
Salesians be formed as effective communicators.
The idea of putting the online project together was
taken up at the Social Communication Advisory Board Meeting (Consulta)
in March 2009 at Madrid.
The BOSCOM PROJECT is not a scholar's website, nor a
perfect product, nor a ready-to-use resource. It is a data bank from
which formation personnel can pick what is most suitable to their needs
for further creative improvement and adaptation to their local
situation. It is a work in progress, for which suggestions, corrections
and new resources may be sent to the official address.
** The aim
of the Project is to ensure that knowledge and techniques of
communication become the defining quality of our
** The model
is Don Bosco and his charismatic mission for poor and abandoned
youngsters as symbol of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the
Way, Truth and Life.
** The pedagogical method is participatory, life-based education. Wherever
possible, the point of departure for each lesson is experiential
** The period covered is approximately nine years - from the pre-novitiate to final vows and study of theology.
** The project contains theory and practice. Lessons include content to be learned and skills to be fostered.
The website is private and primarily meant for
members of the Salesian Family. It can be shared by others involved in
the apostolate of social communications. To access the site please
write to Fr Julian Fox, Secretary of the SC Department, Salesiani, via della Pisana, 1111, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
a web makeover 'launch', or simply gracefully transform, like a
caterpillar shedding one form and taking another? Probably the latter!
At any rate, the miracle of
transformation will occur for www.sdb.org some time over the next
fortnight or so, beginning with 31st January. If there are delays - and
there can be in this game -
don't panic. You'll wake up one morning in February and the website
will have transformed! You need do nothing! Why is this going to take
such a long time? Because sdb.org is intimately linked with 6
sub-sites, and to detach itself, live 'on its own' yet maintain all the
links between all the sites involved is a massive exercise.
We launch that process on 31st January!
Caterpillars are beautiful in their own way, so are
butterflies! www.sdb.org as people have known it for six years has
served the Congregation well. In its new form we hope it will serve the
Congregation even better.
Like any growth cycle, this transformation
has been complex - in its goals,its technology, and its
organisational back-end, by which we mean not the software or the
underlying databases or whatever but identifying the requirements,
defining the procedures and communicating with the many parties involved.
The development goals for sdb.org 2.0 involved
providing a single user login for most applications, a setup that is
comprehensible and comprehensive, user-friendly and customisable. We
wanted to ensure graceful degradation on the one hand (where older
technologies simply slough off instead of being forced out) and
progressive enahncement on the other (where newer technologies and
possibilities quietly offer genuine usefulness). Driving
it all, though, was what we said when we first invited contributions,
ideas from confreres at large - we wanted to help 'warm the heart of
the user'. We believe we have achieved these goals.
Every website, particularly one as large and as
complex as sdb.org, has its own unique story. Part of this story has
been the gradual development of ANS in its own right, with its own
website. We are two sides of a single coin; open one and you have
access to the other, but one does not fulfil the function of the other,
yet if you want the whole picture you need both. That is part of our
dual uniqueness as portal and agency, and we delight in that aspect of
Paradoxically, for all this talk of complexity,
sdb.org 2.0 is less complex. We have re-written sdb.org in PHP -
for those who know what that means, and will be restructuring pages in
HTML5 - for those who know what that means. For those who just
want a better site (whatever THAT means!)just believe us! It makes
current and future tasks easier, more clearly structured, and the
entire website more open to new possibilities.
With sdb.org 2.0 you can choose your own
colours, eliminating the "I don't like red" problem! On the
home page you can choose your own applets and functions and
elminate others - or change your mind later. Your login
(if registered) will enable simple access to documents you
need. And just as Don Bosco pored over maps of the world which
became an icon of his global interest, so too you will have an angel's eye view of your
provincial house and (for the moment you need to know where it is,
but eventually we will help you) your community! AGORA, with its as yet
unexplored and unrealised possibilities, will use the same
login. The videos you place on YouTube could also be placed with us -
following stringent rules of course. For the rest, the structure and
contents will be familiar. You should feel 'at home'.