From the Constitutions of the Divine Word Missionaries 115 we read in part: “In the different means of communication we recognize indispensable, effective ways of bringing the faith to all peoples and deepening it, of keeping the whole Church aware of its missionary obligation, and of strengthening that love which is the expression and source of all community”. This puts communication in its different forms at the very core of our missionary activities as a missionary congregation.
Trying to define communication as a discipline, Mr. Paul Baraza, a part time Pastoral Communication lecturer at Tangaza college, and my one-time lecturer, says that “the deeper meaning of communication would refer to a process whereby meaning is transmitted and shared between living organisms especially among humans. This requires the sender of the message, and an intended recipient. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the sender. Communication is therefore a process of creating understanding between two or more parties”.
Communication is one of the four characteristics dimensions of our congregation, The Divine Word Missionaries. It is only logical that a congregation that focuses majorly in the preaching of the Word of God and in fact expressed by its very name, to have communication as one of its major characteristic dimension. The communication of the Word is the center pillar of the entire exercise of evangelizing. St. Paul in the letter to the Romans says: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? and How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14) Preaching is, in other words, transmission of the Word of God through different means of communication depending on the audience.
The Tangaza Institute of Social Communication (ISC) is one of the seven institute in Tangaza College where our young confreres from CFC Langata are studying theology and which until recently was under the directorship of the SVD missionaries. Through its rich curriculum the ISC has tried to understood the call to communicate the Word of God in a very specific way. By forming professional communicators from both religious and laity fronts, the ISC seeks to provide the general society with qualified, disciplined, faithful and courageous men and women who are capable and willing to use the Mass Media to positively transform the lives of people, inspired by the Christian values. This is achieved by providing the students with the best tools to understand, interpret and tell the society’s stories, henceforth contributing to its transformation. The students are formed in Christian value based skills so that they can investigate, package and communicate life transforming information to the public.
For a number of years, the SVD theology students from the Common Formation Center in Langata, Nairobi have been encouraged to take courses in ISC, given the advantage that Tangaza College gives the opportunity to its students in its seven institutes, to take courses in Institutes other than where they are registered as regular students. This has gone a long way to endow many confreres who have studied in Tangaza, with important skills in communication. In fact, we can boast of one of these beneficiaries who is today the General Coordinator of Communication in our Congregation, Fr. Modeste Munimi. Myself too benefitted a lot by taking courses on Digital communication and Print Media. Among other confreres who underwent this training we have Fr. Claver in USA Chicago, Fr. Joe Ncube in Zimbambwe, among many others now working in different parts of the world.
As a congregation of a missionary nature, we are more than anyone else, very much aware of the rapid evolution of the missionary needs of the modern society and the ever -increasing necessity to evolve in the way we communicate the Word of God to different peoples of our times. The fast evolving communication technology poses a huge challenge to us who are charged to communicate the life transforming message of the Kingdom of God. If we are not well prepared to meet these needs, we will end up being ineffective communicators of the Word. As the secular world chokes the society with bombarding audio-visual and print content that promotes consumerism and individualism, it is our mandate to provide alternative content in the same platform and with the matching vigor, therefore providing options and choices for the people.
Pastoral communication means a lot more than being able to operate complicated high-tech gadgets. It means being able to use the appropriate words, gestures and medium to communicate with different types of audience, i.e. the elderly, the young and the children. In other words, providing Christian content to them. To do this, we need to acquire the necessary skills. In fact, the other three characteristic dimensions of our congregation depend enormously on communication. For instance, for the Bible ministry to achieve its objective, it needs well prepared biblical content and effective transmission of the same. In a similar way, in order to have effective mission animation, we need effective communicators, and finally, to address issues pertaining Peace and Justice we need to deliver the message of unity in diversity effectively to the world.
Today I am able to carry out my apostolate, especially with the youth and children, to my heart fulfilment because of the golden opportunity I had when I studied theology in Tangaza. I have since built on these skills and coupling with skills from other discipline makes my apostolate more effective. I have always believed that the formation of confreres should always be focused on our four characteristic dimensions from the very beginning. When the candidates join the SVD, especially after the novitiate, they need to identify the dimension they can specialize in and not to wait until they are ordained or finally professed to think about it. The needs of the mission today are very different from what they were 20 years ago. Today there is a clear need for specialized ministries for both clergy and religious. The idea here is not to compete with the lay professionals but to be able to offer alternative and Christian response to the ever-increasing needs of the society. The secular world has commercialized almost every service to humanity. It is our mandate to give alternatives to the society by giving services based on Christian values and that respect the dignity of all the people, of all cultures, race and beliefs.
It is my recommendation that our Congregation look more closely on the issue of formation, both initial and ongoing formation and see how best we can introduce specialized ministries to complement the basic Philosophy and Theological studies especially in respect to communication. Today the world demands more from us than ever before.
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.