Brussels, 15th June 2016 (SIGNIS/Frank Frost). The SIGNIS Board, meeting in Québec City, Canada, June 6-10, 2016, devoted most of its time and energy to plans for the next SIGNIS World Congress, which will be held in Québec June 19-21, 2017. Of course regular business was not neglected, making for a full work schedule.

The week of meetings began with a tour of the facilities of Laval University, which will host our Congress. Four floors of rooms of every size, from ball-room expanse for plenary meetings, to comfortable meeting rooms seating 30-50 people are organized around a central atrium – ideal for displays and receptions. The Dean of the Laval University Theology Faculty, Fr Gilles Routhier, extended a warm welcome and a promise of full support and collaboration as we plan our programme.

Our local host and organizer, board member Fr Pierre Murray, arranged two tours of old Quebec City, which is sure to be a major attraction for our Congress attendees. Kicking off the first tour was a visit to the historic Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec, where we were warmly welcomed by the Cardinal Archbishop of Québec, Gérald Cyprien Lacroix. We were then able to make a very short pilgrimage through the Holy Door of the Year of Mercy, the only official holy door in North America.

Back at our desks we heard reports from our President, Gustavo Andujar, our Acting Secretary General, Ricardo Yáñez, and our Acting General Treasurer, Fr Pierre Murray. They were able to report substantial progress in the Brussels office, where Ricardo Yáñez has been performing two jobs admirably since the departure of Alvito De Souza. Ricardo has reorganized the internal structure of the Brussels office to provide more robust services and collaboration among staff. This included a professional workshop on team building, which also involved the staff of SIGNIS Services Rome (SSR) for the first time. It is hoped that, since finances are stable, Ricardo will soon be able to hire an additional staff person to fill his former position.

Fabrizio Colombo also reported that SSR has made a transition from primarily a provider of technical services to missionary regions, to include a pastoral consulting dimension that will enable SSR to advise missionary dioceses on their larger communications plans and needs.

Reports from every region of SIGNIS around the world reported robust activity. SIGNIS is alive and well! A new SIGNIS web portal will be going live soon and the members of every region are urged to report activities there on an ongoing basis.

Challenges that continue to confront the SIGNIS Secretariat include financial growth and fundraising, as well as comprehensive communications planning. A Development Committee was established to address fundraising.

With quadrennial elections pending in 2017, an election committee was named to manage nominations. A permanent Secretary General will be elected, along with a permanent General Treasurer, the President, and two Vice-Presidents. The current officers were asked if they intend to run for second terms, and all three officers, President Gustavo Andujar, Vice-President Lawrence Sinniah, and Vice-President Frank Frost all expressed an interest in a second term.

Claudia Di Giovanni has long been our appointed liaison with the Holy See. She was present to report on the reorganization of all communications functions of the Vatican under one Secretariat of Communications, which is now headed by Msgr. Dario Viganò, previously the head of Vatican Television. We are pleased that Msgr Viganò has assigned Claudia the continuing role of representing his secretariat within SIGNIS. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PSSC) has been dissolved, and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli retires this July. His deputy at the PSSC, Bishop Paul Tighe, has been appointed Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

But, as stated earlier, the greatest attention at the board meeting went to planning for SWC 2017. This congress will be coordinated with the Catholic Press Association of North America, which will hold its annual Catholic Media Conference (CMC) immediately following SWC 2017. One day of combined programme will bridge the two events.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS! SWC 2017 June 19-21, 2017. CMC June 21-23, 2017.

The theme of SWC 2017 (which has also been adopted by CMC) is “Promoting Stories of Hope.” This theme is timely and rich with possibilities, offering perfect continuity with our long-time umbrella theme, “Media for a Culture of Peace.” Plans are to organize the programme across four concurrent strands (tracks): production, spirituality, media education/technology, and news (reporting). Extensive reaction to the planned theme and tracks was followed by brainstorming in three phases, which arrived at a rich variety of possible workshops and events. It was determined that the keynote events would be of the “TED” presentation style, no longer than 20 minutes, followed by breakout discussions. It was noted that our presence in French Canada should not become a lost opportunity. In particular, Laval University itself will become a participating host, through Theology Dean Gilles Routhier. Dean Routhier will participate in the Programming Committee that was appointed to clarify the planning process and define the programme.

Finally we want to note with pleasure that two veteran leaders of OCIC blessed us with their presence for part of the meeting. They were Sister Huguette Turcotte, who worked at the OCIC General Secretariat 1976-1978 and 1984-1989 and Fr. Jean-Paul Guillet PME, director 1987-2003 of what is now SIGNIS Services Rome.

Photos in the Flickr gallery