Catholic Comment launched in time for last year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, with a mission to serve “both the Church and the media”: since then its speakers have taken part in over 90 radio and television interviews including on programmes such as Prime Time, The Frontline, Tonight with Vincent Browne, Ireland AM, Morning Edition, Drivetime, Nuacht a hAon, Evening Extra on BBC Radio Ulster, Newstalk Lunchtime as well as numerous local radio stations from Cork to Donegal, and from Galway to Dublin.
After a successful first year, the organisation is now looking for a second panel of speakers.
In spring 2012, Catholic Comment selected a group of 15 people from across Ireland of different ages and backgrounds, and over three residential weekends worked with them on how to best articulate the Catholic faith in a media context. Some media skills training was included: how a studio operates, what producers expect, understanding that interviews are sometimes requested – or cancelled – at short notice. However the weekends focused mainly on a new and exciting approach to communication – one that is very suited to Catholic communicators.
Following the model of Catholic Voices in Britain, the aim during interviews is to throw some light on the Church’s message or mission but not to get involved in heated polemic, to be a witness of what the Catholic faith means, rather than to win debates.
The current panel of speakers include a musician, a panel beater, a barrister, a teacher, an accountant, three postgraduate students and a graduate in theology and business.
Tony Curran, a father and grandfather from Firhouse in Dublin who works with adults with a disability, describes the selection process: “I was given some topics to study in advance and at the interview, I was asked tough questions by an experienced journalist. I felt invigorated afterwards. I thought, ‘this is what I want to do!’”
Tony’s media outings since then included an hour long programme with three seasoned politicians none of whom shared his views, and a 30 second sound bite for a news bulletin for which he had 30 minutes notice. But Tony felt well supported by the team and by the preparation. “To speak on a radio show or on television can be a daunting task, particularly when one is articulating a Catholic viewpoint. But as Catholic Comment speakers we have been encouraged to remember that this is not about me but about the message I am putting across. I see it as part of the New Evangelisation.”
Clare-woman Maura Garrihy is 23-years-old and a graduate of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. She starts a new role as Youth Ministry Director for the Diocese of Galway next week.
“Catholic Comment has given me the tools to dialogue effectively and appropriately about our faith and really try and win hearts as a result – and not arguments! It is a very real way of answering the call to share our faith. Not only have I learned how to communicate in the media but it’s also come in very useful for conversations with friends and family too!”
Catholic Comment is now aiming to build on the success of its first year.
It will hold selection interviews in Dublin on Friday and Saturday, November 1-2 for the new panel of speakers.
Applications are welcome up to Friday, October 11 from anyone who feels this might be for them. The three preparation weekends for the new speakers will be between November and early March, 2014. More information is available on the website www.catholiccomment.ie or firstname.lastname@example.org or on 086.416.2277.
Petra Conroy is the coordinator of Catholic Comment.