Jesus’ modern disciples use networks rather than nets
“So what is Hope&Joy?” I must have been asked this question so many times in the past few months as we have been putting this project together. Is it an organisation? Is it a lay movement? Is it a lobby group? Is it an association? The reason for people’s confusion is that it is actually none of those; in fact it is not like anything that we have tried in the Church in South Africa before.
Hope&Joy is a Network and that means it is both everything and nothing. ‘Nothing’ because there is no head office, no constitution, no budget. ‘Everything’ because it is the sum of its constituent parts, the dozens of national, diocesan and local organisations that have become part of it. After all, for a net to work you need the pieces of string; but you also need the holes between the pieces of string!
The value of a Network was first realised back in November by a group of about two dozen Catholic media professionals (including the editor of this newspaper). We saw as a group that through our different media – radio, national press, diocesan press, public relations, bookshops, magazines, video, e-news – we were all telling different parts of the same story. How much more effective would that story be if all the members of that one body could work together: not by consolidating everything into one unwieldy lump but rather by letting each part do what it does best and pulling together in the same direction. Our Scriptural reference was clear: 1 Cor 12:4-6: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.….”
But what should that common project be? No less an ambition than a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. It is hardly surprising that a group of media people would seek inspiration there – after all it was in the Vatican 2 document ‘Inter Mirifica’ that the means of Social Communication themselves were fully acknowledged as being something that the Church should embrace as a ‘birthright’: since ‘the media, like salt and light, add savour to the earth and light to the world’ (IM §24).
The Hope&Joy Network has since grown to cover every aspect of the life of the Church – education institutions, religious congregations, grass-roots organisations, specialised ministries, and groups working in justice, health, welfare and development. Each of these areas, and each of these organisations, brings its own history, its own expertise and its own following among the Catholic community. But they can work together for the whole of the community under the banner of Hope&Joy.
That is not just marketing; it is true. What is CATHCA trying to do through parish-based health services?: bring hope and joy to people in their suffering. What is Radio Veritas doing for people who cannot get to Church?: bringing hope and joy through their programmes. What are our Catholic schools and the Catholic Institute of Education delivering across the country?: hope and joy through educators to learners and their parents. What are the various parts of the Comboni family or the Dominican family doing through their mission work, their publishing and their outreach? bringing hope and joy to the lives of the people they touch. What do the members of SVP or St Anne’s or the Knights or CWL do week in and week out? bring hope and joy to people who are abandoned or poor or lonely.
Bringing a message of hope and joy is something that all members of the network already do in their different ways. But sometimes we are not good as a Catholic community at really seeing what we do, or showing others what we do. Archbishop Liam commented early on: “Most companies have ordinary products but extraordinary advertising. Our problem in the Church is that we have extraordinary products but very ordinary advertising!”
So Hope&Joy unashamedly uses the latest marketing techniques to communicate better the work of a Church engaged in the modern world. The logo, proudly Catholic and proudly South African, was designed by Mariannhill Press and it will act a guide to Catholics who will soon see it as a way of signposting articles and features and books and lectures and courses and videos and SMS messages and … and … and. The list is far from closed.
And nor is the Network closed. We are inviting every Catholic individual, parish, school and small Christian community in the country to register their desire to bring a message of hope and joy to their part of the community. Send your name, organisation, cell number and e-mail address by SMS to 078 590 0781 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. And soon the website – the epitome of modern networking! – will be able to draw together the strings and the holes that make up this beautiful Catholic network.
Raymond Perrier, Director of the Jesuit Institute and convenor of the Hope&Joy Network