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‘Listening and Speaking with the Heart’ at the Regional Commission for Social Communication (RCSC) Meet 2023

PENANG — The annual meet of the Episcopal Regional Commission for Social Communication (RCSC) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei (CBCMSB) was attended by 27 delegates made up of representatives, members and observers from the Archdioceses of Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, and the Dioceses of Penang, Malacca-Johore, Sibu, Sandakan, Keningau and the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei.

The meeting, held from 3 – 5 November 2023, was physical for 16 delegates and hybrid via Zoom streamed from the Stella Maris Retreat Centre, Penang for the rest. It was an extension of the RCSC meeting held online on 25 August 2023.

To declare open the meet, Fr Thomas Madanan, outgoing Chairman of the RCSC, led everyone in praying the Angelus, before giving his welcome address. Attending online, Fr Thomas shared the approach to evangelisation in an Asian and Synodal context, where there is importance placed on listening and whispering the Good News to win the hearts of people.

With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) today, it has become very challenging. There is greater need to be more personal and faith conscious while moving forward and being sensitive to the signs of the times.

The Power of Listening, Empathy and Charity

Deacon George Vaithynathan conducted two input sessions. The first session on Day-1 introduced the transformative power of listening and cultivating empathy through the ear of the heart. He emphasised the importance of listening with empathy and charity. As communicators, Deacon George explained how we can use our platform to cultivate empathy through the ear of the heart and active listening while discerning the whispering of the Spirit.

The second session on Day-2 was on speaking with the heart that explored the question, ‘What is Heartfelt communication?’ Recognising and managing emotions, being conscious and aware of language barriers, cultural differences or preconceived notions and navigating difficult conversations are inevitable and are a part of life. Approaching it with emotional intelligence and respectful honesty can turn them into opportunities for growth and resolution.

Building trust and authenticity are the foundations of heartfelt communication. We can cultivate empathy and charity, understand the perspectives of the other person and respond compassionately to build deeper connections.

Spiritual Conversation as a process to Listening

Using the example of the Synod, the RCSC used the process of the Spiritual Conversation Exercise to discuss the topic, ‘How can we better our listening?’.  Attendees were placed into three physical groups and one online group. Then the groups had to share their findings to the full group at the end of the exercise. Among the findings, it was noted that listening is a form of cultivating love for others, the importance of listening in the family and spending time to listen to the Lord.

Cardinal Sebastian Francis celebrates RCSC Opening Mass

Cardinal Sebastian Francis, President of the RCSC presided over the evening Opening Mass. In attendance throughout the meeting, the Cardinal gave an overview on the workings of social communications in the region during his homily.

Presentation of RCSC Reports

On Day-2, representatives of the arch/diocese/organisation presented their reports centred on their mission, vision, challenges, opportunities, collaboration, best practices, future plans, support, needs and activities.

The Diocese of Keningau included content creation such as creating 1-min content on FB and TikTok, photography for dioceses, articles for the local and national Catholic newspapers Catholic Sabah and Herald, Kekitaan and improving the popular Radio KekitaanFM, daily reflections, radio dialogues and programmes, as some of their best practices.

The Diocese of Sandakan launched a training programme to give opportunities to young aspirants, and they want to provide an online media channel where the faithful can dialogue and enquire on matters pertaining to their faith. They hope to inspire the faithful in the mission of the Church to evangelise and to bring the Good News.

The Sibu Diocese, despite the challenges of having to rely on volunteers and limited resources, now has a network of local Catholic journalists and the RCSC. Through collaboration with Today’s Catholic and Herald, they are able to get their news out. They also participate in communication training programmes organised by SIGNIS.

Future plans by the Apostolic Vicariate of Brunei include talk shows and to share local content from the youth.

The Diocese of Malacca-Johore faces the same challenges most dioceses face, and that includes lack of manpower, content creation, technology and infrastructure.

The mission of the Diocese of Penang is to bring others to Christ, with a beacon of hope as their vision as they aspire to elevate, endorse, and enhance communication across every dimension within their diocese. They join hands with Caritas Penang each year for the Lenten Campaign. Their future plan is painted with optimism, working on equipping a state-of-the-art studio at their diocesan office. This studio will become a cherished resource for every ministry within Penang diocese, empowering them with the tools they need for effective evangelisation.

For the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, their vision and mission is to have Christ-centred social communication for evangelisation and to journey together to become Christ-centred agents of social change. The challenges include the difficulty of reaching rural areas and speaking to communities in their native languages. Future plans include webcasting, podcasts for 365 days of reflections and recitation of the rosary.

The Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur launched a new website and is training and supporting parish social communication ministries to adopt new technologies, increase collaboration and co-produce content.

The Archdiocese of Kuching sees greater collaboration within the regional commission in terms of content creation and use of digital technology. It has shared its Resource Page with contents that may be beneficial to those in the commission.

As a volunteer network, SIGNIS Malaysia continues to collaborate and work with dioceses and organisations to up-skill members in keeping with the ever-evolving media and technology landscape, and to promote a culture of peace through media.

The Daughters of St Paul continue their mission to evangelise especially through their book missions across Malaysia.

An online session was held with Gregory Pravin from the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocesan Youth Office (ASAYO KL) on the preparations for the Malaysia Pastoral Convention 2026 (MPC2026). They have requested the social communication offices of the nine Malaysian dioceses to assist in promoting and engaging in the planned Salib Malaysia journey in 2025, and to engage the community’s participation as they journey towards MPC2026.

Election of RCSC Committee for 2023-2025

The Election of new RCSC Office Bearers for the term of two years was conducted via a polling app for both physical and online participants through the scanning of a QR code and link. The positions voted on were for Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary and Assistant Secretary.

The new RCSC Chairman is Mr Daniel Roy Santiyagu from the Diocese of Penang, with Fr Sixtus Pitah Amit from the Diocese of Malacca-Johore as Vice Chairman; Ms Sandy–Sandriana Anne from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu is the Secretary, and Ms Rogena Roger Sining from the Diocese of Sandakan, the Assistant Secretary.

Cardinal Sebastian Francis thanked and accorded a note of appreciation to the previous office bearers Fr Thomas Madanan, Ignatius Krishnan and Joyce Ting for their diligent service and efforts towards the mission of social communication in the region.

The next RCSC Annual Meet will be held in Sibu, Sarawak in June 2024.

By Adeline James (SIGNIS Malaysia) & Ivy Chai (Archdiocese of Kuching)

SOURCE: Today’s Catholic

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