Mount St. Joseph University

A Night with the Salesian Guild

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Brittany Hein

The Salesian Guild—named after St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers—is a unique organization of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for it only meets once a year, a tradition that has been flourishing since 1944. The Guild requires no dues and there are no officers, and it provides an opportunity for Catholic communicators of various media in both secular and Catholic sectors to conjoin for a program, dinner, and fellowship. On Jan. 28, I had the honor of attending this year’s gathering though my Cooperative Education experience in communications with the SC Ministry Foundation.

Initially, I was not sure what to expect. The way the words “Salesian Guild” resonated in my thoughts, I only had images of knights from eras past. Upon arrival, the real image I was met with was a pleasant group of communication professionals brought together by our common faith. The room was set up elegantly, and I was completely unopposed to devouring (with decorum) the scrumptious cheesecake that was served with dinner.

Each year, a Distinguished Communicator of the Year award is bestowed upon someone who demonstrates outstanding integrity, professionalism, idealism, and fellowship—to my surprise, the winner of the award this year was a Mount alum, Michael D. Pitman. I also discovered my advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Barkley, was a prior winner of the esteemed award.

The theme of the keynote speech was ‘Communication in Today’s World,’ a timely subject, eloquently given by Deacon Greg Kandra. The Salesian Guild is composed of journalists, news broadcasters, educators, and the like, so the subject of discussing media from the past year, some of which circulated with negative connotations, seemed to be a grave endeavor. Combined, that topic with technological advances that allow anyone to produce their own news with no accountability could also potentially bog down the topic. However, instead of focusing on the negativity in media communication, Kandra presented three interweaving solutions of how communicators can cope with the changing media environment: seek truth, venture to where the waters are blackest, and do not be afraid.

With considerable variety of news available, people can fall into rifts of only reading news that are mirrors of their own views, only reflective of what a person believes or wants to believe. Kandra termed the tendency of never deviating from certain news as placing oneself in “media silos.” The idea of media silos coincides with Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 word of the year: post-truth, an adjective defined by Oxford Dictionary as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Kandra emphasized that we need to engage one another, a message Pope Francis has been stressing, and shatter our media silos, for Jesus said to go out to where the depth of water is blackest. Do not be afraid to go outside your silos and seek the truth. “Jesus didn’t say ‘The lie will set you free,’” Kandra sagely pointed out.

That evening I did not encounter an ancient knight (although the cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis could arguably fall into the knight category), but I was instilled with a sort of an honorable purpose. Attending the Salesian Guild made me realize we are all communicators in some form, whether we are on the news or simply engaging with people we encounter. Everyone is beloved by God and everyone has a story tell. All communicators need to do is seek for the stories waiting to be told.

Photo: Buffy Barkley and Michael D. Pitman beside a cardboard Pope Francis.