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Synod and Communication: an intergenerational look, Helen Osman’s intervention at Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication Plenary Assembly

A mass led by Mauro Gambetti, archpriest cardinal of Saint Peter’s Basilica, opened the Plenary Assembly of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication on November 10th. This plenary gathers multiple journalists and communication experts to share how to find each other through communication and the Church’s role in this process. Among them, was SIGNIS President Helen Osman, in her role of consultor for the Dicastery.

Ms. Osman was invited to deliver a speech about “Synod and Communication: an intergenerational look”, where she chose to share her experience in leading listening sessions for SIGNIS members in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific. “I tried to convey the particular reflections of our younger members”, says Helen, who introduced two key communication elements: the concepts of “walking together” and “listening to the Holy Spirit” when talking about how the youth, who are so aware of their role in bringing a voice to the voiceless, continue to find challenges put up by their elders on the way.

The concept of listening keeps coming back in these conversations. The Pope made a call in early 2022 to listen with the ear of our hearts, which Helen recognizes is not commonplace. “Too often we approach a conversation as an opportunity in which I must convince the other that my opinion or perspective is persuasive and should be primary. While this approach may work well in a court of law, in the public forum it has devolved into an environment in which opinions are prioritized over facts and reality”. Listening with the ear of our hearts has become even more difficult in today’s hyper-connected world, as undersigned by prefect Paolo Ruffini at this year’s SIGNIS World Congress when he called upon Catholic media workers to find “the communion that unites us” through communication.

“I think this is an important theme that Prefect Ruffini continually calls us to consider: what is at the core of communication?”, says Helen. “During the Plenary, he reminded us that communication is more than transmitting information, but should be measured in how it serves the common good. ‘Authentic communication involves the giving of self’, he said. Digital connectivity, therefore, has to be more than about transmissions. It has to be about sharing who we are, as people in love with Jesus Christ and His world”.

Talking about the “digital age” we live in, Helen shares that one of the more thought-provoking presentations delivered during the Plenary was from Dr. Felicia Wu Song, who is a professor of sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California (USA). Dr. Wu talked about how the digital age has a unique call to the contemplative life, noting that we have rituals, or liturgies, in our daily life based around our devices, and challenging us to think about ways to make those rituals sacred.

The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication Plenary Assembly was also a chance for Pope Francis to remind us that “only a Church that is immersed in reality truly knows what is found in the heart of the contemporary man. Every true communication is made of concrete listening and understanding other people’s stories, thus it should support the Church to live concretely in reality, encouraging listening and intercepting the great questions of today”. A mission that Ms. Osman wishes to accomplish with her work and in her role of consultor for the Dicastery for Communication, “it’s an honor to assist the Dicastery in their important and essential work for and on behalf of the Holy Father. I hope my interventions and suggestions are also reflective of what our members are recognizing as important issues and challenges for the Church in their region”, says Helen about her newly appointed role. 


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