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The Jesus factor

Opinion

As any newspaper editor will tell you, one of the hardest parts of the job is finding enough space.

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For the journalist every word is a gem, for the photographer every picture tells a thousand words and for the advertisers, well if it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be a paper.

For the editor, deciding which stories can be held, cut or left out, how many photos to use and where to place them can cause many a sleepless night.

On one such night prior to our latest deadline, I tossed and turned as I thought about how to make all the articles fit. Being close to Christmas, my mind turned to the birth of Christ more than 2000 years ago and its impact on our world. I wondered where he would have been born today (a refugee camp comes to mind) and what places in our own community we would find Jesus doing his thing.

From a Catholic newsworthiness perspective, I wondered which stories in our paper had the biggest ‘Jesus factor’, where is the compassion, justice, mercy, healing and charity that Jesus showed time and again as he turned things upside down and challenged the status quo?

As my mind moved through the draft pages of the paper I realised that the ‘Jesus factor’ was indelibly linked to all of our stories: the front page photo of Tutti, an organisation that gives so much joy and dignity to people with disabilities – Jesus would be right at home there; helping ex-prisoners get back on their feet – the very heart of a merciful Jesus; educating students living on the edge; serving the homeless at Hutt St Centre, providing care for the sick; fighting for the rights of refugees…the list goes on.

There is never any shortage of ‘good news’ stories, from the ordinary and extraordinary to the inspiring and confronting, but the challenge for us as a Church is to communicate them in new ways and to a wider audience at a time when even the mention of the word Jesus is a turn off for many. Strangely enough, no-one ever disputes that he was a good guy, they just don’t like talking about it.

There are some of us working in communications for the Catholic Church who have been pushing for a concerted effort through social media – the staple news diet of many, and particularly the young – to ‘bring back’ Jesus and show people where he is in today’s world. We call it the ‘Jesus Project’ and we think it should run a bit like a political campaign, or maybe a Black Friday phenomenon, where people can’t help but be impacted by the Jesus story.

It requires resources, commitment, creativity and innovation but it is based on age-old Christian beliefs and values. It’s not about proselytising or pitting one religion against another, rather it’s about highlighting how faith has a place in a world where many people are yearning for something more.

I was excited to see Vinnies launching a national TV campaign this month but a little disappointed that it talked about ‘good works’ without any mention of being a faith-based organisation. This is despite being run almost entirely by groups of dedicated Catholics in our parishes who are inspired by their faith to serve others.

Many in the community would be unaware that Vinnies, the Hutt St Centre, Catherine House, Calvary and Centacare are Catholic or Catholic-inspired entities that do amazing work serving those in need in a highly professional and effective way.

To date, the Jesus Project hasn’t got off the ground but with the national Plenary Council taking place next year, in our own city of Adelaide, we can only hope and pray that this might be on the agenda.

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy reading our stories as much as we enjoy writing them and we wish you a joyous and peaceful Christmas.

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