Council Resources

Newsletter - January 2010


Newsletter no.10,  January 2009

Animation - Letter from Fr Filiberto

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 journey.
    You will find good news in this Newsletter.     
    Until next time,
    Fr Filiberto González Plasencia sdb
    General Councillor for SC
    SC General Councillor

Information: Communications logistics at a time of humanitarian disaster

HaitiWhile 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.
    We all see the regular updates on ANS.  What is behind all of this?  At least the following elements in this particular case:

* In Rome, the Communications and Mission Departments with their separate but combined resources of personnel, contacts;
* 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 are available;
* 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

BoscomThe 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.
    More specifically:
    ** The aim of the Project is to ensure that knowledge and techniques of communication become the defining quality of our edcuative-evangelising mission.
    ** 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 group-work.
    ** 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 or

Production: 2.0

sdb.orgDoes 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 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 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! 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 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, 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 our complexity.
    Paradoxically, for all this talk of complexity, 2.0 is less complex. We have re-written 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 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'.