Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP. Photo by Daniel Tay

SINGAPORE – In his younger days, Richard Davies, 37, once organised a session for graduate students to come together to watch a movie and discuss it. But what started off with good intentions unexpectedly ended in a verbal war among the students.

Fast forward to today: Richard can say he’s grown wiser about how to conduct such sessions, especially in his newly joined catechesis ministry at Church of Sts. Peter and Paul – thanks to help from the professionals.

Pauline Sister Rose Pacatte is one such professional. She holds a Master of Education in Media Studies from the University of London, U.K., and a certificate in Pastoral Communications from the University of Dayton. Her primary work consists of media literacy education for parents and teachers within the context of culture, education, and faith formation.

On Oct 10, she conducted two seminars on media spirituality and media savviness for 55 catechists at the Catholic Archdiocesan Education Centre.

“People can be very emotional in their media likes and dislikes,” she said.

Responding to Richard’s question on how to facilitate such a session, she advised that the ground rules be laid down first: Respect each other’s opinion, and give each person an opportunity to speak. This stems from the understanding that when it comes to a story, there is no right or wrong way to go about interpreting it.

“A five-year-old may look at a story differently than from a 25-year-old. This is because of their different life experiences, but that doesn’t mean that the child’s opinion is not valid,” she said to her rapt audience.

The media through film and television programmes are a powerful way of developing spirituality in children, and even in adults, said Sister Rose, a film/television columnist for St. Anthony’s Messenger Magazine. She also writes a monthly column on media in the National Catholic Reporter.

She recounted a particular seminar she conducted for 1,000 people, where she asked a nine-year-old boy what his favourite movie was and why. The boy replied that it was “Signs”, because “it’s a story about a priest who lost his faith and got it back”. The boy’s mother was astonished at the depth of understanding her son exhibited.

On the flip side, Sister Rose finds certain aspects about the media undesirable. “The media has turned us into consumers… it turns wants into needs and needs into wants,” she said. “Have you ever heard a child say to you, ‘I need an iPod’? Who ‘needs’ an iPod? The child does because the media tells him so.”

Sister Rose reminded that when catechists teach using media, “how you teach is more important than what you teach”.

“When you remember our teachers, do you remember what they taught you, or how they taught you?” she asked rhetorically.

“A catechist is someone who makes an echo of faith so that it resounds in the hearts of the catechised,” said Sister Rose. “You have the power to influence the video game makers and film makers of tomorrow.”

She listed 10 steps (see box) for catechists to become media savvy – which most children already are.

Above all, she encouraged catechists, and indeed all Catholics, to “fall in love with the world today” by “bringing together faith and life” and “to always be willing to learn even from the youngest, to be a co-learner with them”.

Caroline Theseira, a catechist at the parish of St. Francis Xavier for over 10 years, said that as a parent catechist, her emphasis has been to teach children how to love God, with her lessons always centering on God. But the seminar, she said, helped her realise that she had forgotten “the part on being excited about the world”.

Noting further that there are different types of learners, Ms Theseira said that while she usually taught verbally, she would now pay more attention to those who learn better visually. “I’m going to watch TV more with my children,” she added.

By Daniel Tay
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