Quality of Communication in Church Must Improve

Interview with Father Valdir De Castro, Superior General of the Society of Saint Paul

Quality of Communication in Church Must
Father Valdir De Castro, Superior General of the Society of Saint Paul © Paulinos Roma

The quality of communication in the Church must be improved, according to Father Valdir Jose De Castro, first non-Italian Superior General of the Society of Saint Paul, known as the Paulines, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Blessed James Alberione. His views are shared with Exaudi’s readers in the following interview by Peruvian journalist Jose Antonio Varela.

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When there is talk of social communication among Catholics, Blessed James Alberione (1884-1971) shines as an immediate referent. He was an Italian priest, Founder of the Pauline Family, which is a constellation of Congregations and secular Institutes, which have made an invaluable contribution to the launching and subsequent permanence of the Church in the culture of communication.

Fifty years after his departure to Heaven, the Religious Family that Alberione founded, decided to move the urn containing the fragile body that characterized him, from the crypt of the Queen of Apostles Basilica in Rome to a preferential area in that church’s central nave, for the greater veneration of the faithful.

In order to recount this episode “of going forth,” as well as other current topics, among them the forthcoming Synod, Exaudi talked exclusively with Brazilian Father Valdir Jose de Castro, who is the first non-Italian Superior General of the Society of Saint Paul, knowns as the Paulines. The full interview on video can be seen here.

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How is Blessed James Alberione remembered?

 Father Valdir De Castro: Those who knew Father Alberione say he was a man of God, a strong person in the sense of his faith, with great conviction and a style of life dedicated totally to God. It was something that was reflected in his works.  

 He was very attentive to the life of his Religious, no?

 Father Valdir De Castro: He was a very human man. We have as an example of this some letters that Father Alberione wrote to members of the Pauline Family, who were here in Italy and also others outside of Italy. He was concerned not only with the apostolate but also with the person, concerned about his health, etc. He was a man who illumined others’ life because God was very present in his life.

What sign do you see in the fact that you are a Brazilian and that Brazil was the first foundation created by Alberione in the world?

 Father Valdir De Castro: It’s a coincidence that the first Superior General, who isn’t Italian, comes from the first country where the Paulines established themselves and that it was precisely in the city of Sao Paulo. We can say that Brazil is the “oldest” daughter, the eldest. The Paulines arrived in Brazil in August of 1931. So Alberione began to send missionaries, to take the Pauline charism to all nations.

On the occasion of the moving of Blessed Alberione’s body to the central area of the Queen of the Apostles Basilica in Rome, we have heard you say that Alberione “is going forth,” much in the style of Pope Francis. What message do you want to transmit with this gesture?

 Father Valdir De Castro: For several decades Father Alberione’s body remained in the Basilica’s crypt, but it was somewhat hidden from the people, although it could be visited. Therefore, after reflecting among ourselves, as well as with other feminine Congregations of the Pauline Family, we decided it was the moment to take Alberione’s urn upstairs. As Pope Francis talks of the Church going forth, we also see that the Founder “comes out” of his crypt and he will now be amid the People of God. He will remain under the altar of Jesus-Teacher, Way, Truth, and Life, which is the center of the apostolate of the Pauline Family.

What does Alberione say to journalists with his life?

 Father Valdir De Castro: Those that work in communication will find a whole spirituality, which can give a meaning to their life, namely, what it means to be God’s editor today. Because we have many editors and given that, editor means to let the thing we have to communicate come out from inside, hence, an editor of God is one who communicates above all God’s Gospel and human and Christian values.

And what do the men religious learn from him?

 Father Valdir De Castro: A model of consecration. He was a man who was a Religious, a priest who lived his vocation profoundly. Like us, also with his limitations, but he sought to live in holiness, which means to live united to Jesus. He had the fruitful life of a Religious, who dedicated his whole life to God and produced many fruits.

What were his principal fruits?

 Father Valdir de Castro: The principal fruit was the foundation of the Pauline Family, which has ten institutions with the mission to live and proclaim that Jesus-Teacher is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And to proclaim this Gospel through the various apostolates of each of the institutions that put it into practice.

The media connects us, but doesn’t always communicate to us . . .

 Father Valdir de Castro: One thing is connections, another is communications. We are very connected and we thank God because it’s a good thing. We are very connected but also very distracted, poorly concentrated. This is a serious problem today, as sometimes there is too much noise and little communication. What does it mean to communicate? In the origin of the word is the sense of creating communion. We, Christians, have as model of communication the Host Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live in constant communication and in a constant communion of love.

Sometimes there is no awareness of this . . .

 Father Valdir De Castro: We see in society wonderful instruments of communication, there are the networks, which is something that is very good. However, sometimes people don’t know how to use them and they waste time. Many contents pass through those means, but we are not always communicating. I think that we, as Pauline Family, also have the mission to help to improve the quality of communication. This is a great challenge for us.

The “digital gap” is still worrying . . .

 Father Valdir De Castro: Some don’t have access to the media, so it’s a great challenge to integrate all these people. We always talk about the excluded of society, who, due to poverty live, in situations of total penury. However, these people are also excluded from the system of communication, to which they have no access. It’s a challenge for the Paulines <and> for the Church in general, to reach these people and to integrate them in the communicative system, in the culture of communication.

There is another term for what you are talking about, which is to be a “craftsman of communication.” To what does it refer?

 Father Valdir De Castro: We are preparing for the General Chapter we’ll hold in the month of February of next year and, in fact, its theme states that we are called to be “craftsmen of communion.” As I was saying, communication is to create communion and a person is precisely a craftsman when he makes an effort to communicate. In fact, in this process and effort, we can create communion. We think that to bring it about, the efforts of these “craftsmen of communion” are necessary for a society that is desiring and asking to improve the quality of communication.

Is it important for communication to generate greater solidarity?

 Father Valdir de Castro: In an egoistic and individualist world, where there is a lack of communication because each one sees and thinks for himself — as the economic system leads us to this: to consume only for my satisfaction –, it’s evident that it’s a challenge to educate the new generations for this communion, for this communication. The latter is created with solidary union, which creates dialogue. In fact, dialogue is an effort to create ties; to have something new happen, it’s necessary to listen, as Pope Francis said. The process of communication, especially interpersonal communication, begins with the gift of speech; we live in a society where everyone wants to speak and the process of non-communication begins by not listening. If we don’t listen to God, we don’t know what we should do. And if we don’t listen to the people that live with us, beginning with the family, the community or work, how can we have a more salutary, more tranquil, more serene environment. The effort to listen, to grow in communication, to reciprocity is something possible if we make an effort to look for that way.

In face of the forthcoming Synod, what proposal will the Paulines take to it?

 Father Valdir De Castro: Although it will be in the year 2023, we are willing to undertake this journey. From the organizations of the Superiors General, we are also reflecting on how we, Religious, will participate. On our part, we will make an effort to participate in this Synod from our charism. By way of information, for the Congregation I wrote an annual Letter in 2020 on synodality, in order to prepare ourselves for the General Chapter. Hence as a Congregation, we, Paulines, evidently cannot walk thinking of ourselves, but walk as Church, with the different realities, sharing our charism and our means of social communication in this synodal journey.

How are the Paulines preparing for their General Chapter of the year 2022?

 Father Valdir De Castro: That General Chapter is inspired and seeks enlightenment in chapter 12 of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans, where Saint Paul asks his listeners to allow themselves to be transformed, renewing their way of thinking. All of us will be transformed if we change our minds and allow ourselves to be illumined by the light of the Gospel, which must be the reference. Our Founder, Father Alberione, always insisted that to evangelize the men and women of today, it’s necessary to change our mind, because if we don’ change our mind, if we don’t follow the progress made, the development of humanity, whom do we want to evangelize?

It’s like putting new wine in old wineskins . . .

 Father Valdir De Castro: Sometimes we want to evangelize the men and women of today, with the head of twenty years ago, or with means that people no longer seek. We must use all the means, as Father Alerione said, the digital means, the technological means . . . the greatest challenge is to respond to the needs of humanity today. And for this  <to happen>, it’s necessary to change our mind, I say this, speaking especially of our apostolate, which is communication. As we know, communication always advances and goes forward; we, the Paulines, accept this challenge. However, it’s not the Paulines alone that must do so, but the whole Church, as the way of thinking must be renewed. To follow humanity’s development, to reach the men and women of today, the language must be used that people understand today.

Sometimes the message isn’t understood . . . 

 Father Valdir De Castro: In his connection, I ask myself today as Church, do young people understand our language? Do we know how to take the Gospel to young people, with a language that is comprehensible to them? It’s the question I pose myself and formulate for all of us. So, we must transform minds, but especially the heart, allowing ourselves to be transformed by the Gospel, being men and women of God. Then we will be able to transform the mind in all the ambits of evangelization.

A final message for the Pauline Family . . .

 Father Valdir De Castro: As Pauline Family, we are always invited and we must make this effort — to take forward the principle of our consecration and live and proclaim Jesus-Teacher, way of light and life, in the steps of the Apostle Paul in today’s world. Then to do this, we always need to change our way of thinking in regard to communication, especially if our way of thinking no longer corresponds to reality. Father Alberione already talked about conversion, also about changing our way of thinking. Therefore, the Pauline Family must look at people in today’s society, with their problems, with their spiritual and material needs. We are called to communicate the Gospel, be it with speedier, more advanced, and effective means, including through inter-personal communication. And, above all, we must communicate with God, in this difficult time, in order to help people that need it.

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester