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Unleash the Gospel with Edmundo Reyes

Posted on Mar 9, 2020

DeSales Media is working to bring new tools to diocesan communications departments throughout the country. One of the dioceses that has blown us away with its holistic program of digital and personal evangelization is the Archdiocese of Detroit. 

Their evangelization movement, Unleash the Gospel, works to bring out the hope and faith of the faithful in the diocese, to create a positive spirit and image around Catholicism in the Archdiocese of Detroit. This positive spirit is a burst of fresh life not only to the Archdiocese but beyond. 

To tap into the positive spirit, DeSales teamed up with the Archdiocese’s Communications Team to host the first-ever Catholic Leadership Summit entitled “Marketing for the Church.” Our idea was to get some of the most innovative thinkers of the church in America together in a room to discuss what’s working and what’s not, how to troubleshoot, and how to collaborate going forward.

We’re grateful for its success. Because of the summit, tangible collaborations have kicked off, a renewed spirit of missionary discipleship is rekindled, and we’re already thinking about planning for next year.

We sat down to talk down with Edmundo Reyes, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Edmundo’s energy and enthusiasm are absolutely infectious.

Edmundo has been with the Archdiocese of Detroit as the Director of Communications for almost two years now. Anyone who sits down for even a brief conversation with Edmundo can see that he is full of missionary spirit and zeal for the work of spreading God’s word in the diocese. Edmundo shares with us some insights from the Archdiocese of Detroit’s initiative to unleash a new Pentecost in their diocese and become a more dynamic, outward-facing Church.

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DeSales Media: How did Unleash the Gospel begin? What was its origin point?

Edmundo Reyes: Unleash the Gospel is a movement that had its origins in March of 2014 with the announcement of a Year of Prayer in the Archdiocese of Detroit. This Year of Prayer was announced in preparation for Synod 16. 

The archdiocese had been closing parishes, so we responded with prayer and a syond. We took a full year to pray for a new Pentecost, a renewal of faith, in the diocese. Over the course of the year leading up to Synod 16, we had Talking and Listening sessions with laypeople and clergy all over the archdiocese.

After learning from and listening to our diocesan members over the course of the year, Archbishop Vigneron published the initial pastoral letter “Unleash the Gospel” in June 2017. 

DS: What prompted this year of prayer and pastoral letter?

ER: We saw the archdiocese needed to move from maintenance to mission. The natural state of a diocese ought to be one of growth—not maintenance, but growth—if we’re not growing, expanding, spreading the Gospel, we’re not doing what God asked us to do.

An important milestone in our movement was the Mass for Pardon. We asked forgiveness as a community, for pardon for the institutional sins of the Catholic Church in Detroit. It wouldn’t have been possible for us to move into this mission phase without these two events—the year of prayer and the Mass for Pardon. Our movement is not based on ingenuity and savviness, but on the work of God. We depend upon the work of God to do the work of the diocese.

DS: And then how was the full movement of Unleash the Gospel born?

ER: We call the pastoral letter a “roadmap of the missionary confirmation.” It’s not just a strategic plan, but a roadmap and a call. Unleash the Gospel is a movement that we join: there are no bystanders—everyone needs to do their part in this mission. And there’s work that needs to be done right now.  We wanted to change the narrative of the diocese, and this letter created a roadmap to health for the diocese.

We want to build a movement of people who care so deeply that they are willing to do something. The letter was not just about amplifying the work of the archbishop but a call to build a movement. The letter articulated our core principles. To build a movement, you need to start from these core principles to gain momentum. You build a movement from the center out. You start from the center, from people who are already tuned in and move from there. 

Our movement, our second Pentecost, is modeled off of the first Pentecost. If we want to ignite a new Pentecost, we have to grow it organically. We have to invest in the people already in the movement and then deploy them to reach out to the broader community.

DS: What were some key communications strategies to launch this movement?

ER: One thing we emphasize is that vocabulary matters, semantics matter. When we talk about the pastoral letter, we talk about it as a roadmap. Think of the difference between the phrases “document implemented” versus a “roadmap for a movement.” One is dynamic, directional, and motivational. The other is sterile and formal—it lacks direction.

In November 2018, we launched Detroit Catholic, the Catholic newspaper for the diocese. In January 2019, we turned Detroit Catholic into an online-only news site. And, in January 2019, we launched Unleash the Gospel Magazine.

DS: Why the switch to the magazine?

ER: Detroit Catholic is a news site, and Unleash the Gospel magazine is a lifestyle publication. We wanted to create the Unleash the Gospel magazine as a lifestyle publication for the wider Unleash the Gospel brand. 

We think of a “brand” as communication that moves across channels—the newsletter, social media, website, and magazine. We have built infrastructures to develop the brands and execute them across different channels. We distribute the 90,000 magazines in the archdiocese (which we print every two months). The core lifestyle identity that we’re promoting is that of a joyful missionary disciple.

DS: How did you think about “branding” or “rebranding” the diocese?

ER: We created a brand framework just the way consumer products develop brands. A brand is not just a product. People get tattoos of their favorite brands, not because they just love their products, but because these brands are emblematic of a certain identity, community or lifestyle. So we wanted to present Catholicism as a lifestyle brand. Catholic identity is not a product you can buy, it’s a way of life that gives you something—an identity and a community—but asks something of you.

Everything in our digital spaces, our social media and our online magazine promote our brand identity—being a joyful missionary disciple. 

DS: What are some core principles of lifestyle branding?

ER: Lifestyle branding is made of four key components: identity, community, practical advice, and inspiration/aspiration. For example, when I was living in Minneapolis, I watched a friend run a marathon, and I told my wife afterward that I wanted to run a marathon. In order to do this, I had to start from scratch, as I was not a runner. So I subscribed to Runner’s World

Runner’s World offered identity—being a runner. The magazine never includes the word “jogging.” Semantics matter, the vocabulary you use to talk about yourself definitely matters. Second, Runner’s World creates a community of readers and subscribers joined around one common interest. Third, it offered practical advice to equip you with the practical needs that you need to become that identity. So, for Runner’s World, I learned how to get shoes, training, cool down, and what to eat. Finally, perhaps most importantly, it provides inspiration for aspirational new goals.

DS: Who is the core audience for Unleash the Gospel?

ER: Unleash the Gospel is the “big umbrella brand” for the movement. The UTG magazine is our channel for reaching the core members of the movement. We see families as core of the movement rather than parish professionals or ministers, because they are the lifeblood of the new evangelization. Our magazine is designed to reach families and the “domestic church” in the archdiocese.

For 2020, we’ve launched 52 Sundays, a dynamic guide that helps families reclaim the Lord’s Day with prayers, suggested family activities, recipes for Sunday dinner, and more.

DS: What would you recommend to other dioceses seeking to emulate your success?

ER: First: we always begin in prayer and humility. We do this for the glory of God. Second, we all need to up our game. The expectations of the American public for media they consume are high. We cannot afford to be mediocre. If we want to get the attention of our parishes, our diocese, of the wider public, we have to put out a product that looks slick, professional, and communicates our serious, high standards. 

The thing about the Church in the twenty-first century is that we’re competing for people’s attention, and we’re competing against people’s attention. The competition is selling lifestyles. We could be the best diocese in the country, but we’re competing with the professional lifestyle brands of top clothing brands, car companies, or tech companies. There’s so much thrown at people all the time that our message and brand need to stand out.

Because of this, we need to create products of the highest professional quality. There’s so much being thrown at people all the time. We have to create something that is consistent and professional. They’re selling them lifestyles, but we’re giving them something more.

So, our strategy is simple. We work hard to put out good work. We can only do that if we’re investing the numbers in this work, if we’re committing to it financially. We have, to my understanding, the largest team of marketing professionals of any diocese in the country. We changed our hiring policy to start hiring specialists, rather than generalists. Instead of having a small team of generalists, we have a large team of highly specialized workers. We needed expertise rather than general knowledge.

If you have a smaller team, that doesn’t mean you can’t do great things. Just do less—and do it really well. A small output from your diocese’s communications office that is really well done is better than a lot of content that is mediocre. That said, we communicate our own values to others by how we do things. There definitely needs to be an investment from leadership that matches the investment of our time and resources. I see very few dioceses investing in marketing in a significant way.

Finally, we need to not be afraid of change or failure. We need more courage in our dioceses to be bold and innovative, and trust that God will provide and guide, to operate less with fear, and more with apostolic boldness.

 

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We’re grateful to Edmundo for his time and for sitting down to talk with us. We highly recommend you explore Unleash the Gospel’s spectacular website and get inspired to start a movement of your own!

 

All images courtesy of Unleash the Gospel/Archdiocese of Detroit

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Can Christian Community Exist in the Workplace?

Posted on Sep 18, 2019

Desales Catholic CompanyHow do we build Christian community in the workplace? Christian companies who are competing with corporations in the secular sphere can often feel pressure to model company culture more on our competitors and less on the Christian Gospel. One Christian company, however, believes that Christians can do business differently—and puts its money where its mouth is.

Plough Quarterly, a publication of Plough Publishing House, published an article this summer about Christian workplace. Plough strives to build a Christian community in the workplace that mirrors the community in their home lives. Plough’s article asked a provocative question: is Christian business an oxymoron?

As a Catholic company, DeSales Media also strives to be a thoroughly Christian organization. We believe being a Catholic company means witnessing Christ’s message not just in what we say, but in what we do and how we do it. DeSales prides itself on being a company whose Catholic identity is present not only in the products we create or in the clients we serve, but, rather, that our Christian witness permeates our entire ethos. In fact, one of our core goals is to be an inspiring place to work—for Catholics and all our employees.

Plough Publishing House, based in the beautiful Hudson Valley village of Walden, NY, is run by the Bruderhof Communities. The Bruderhof Communities are Christian communities who commit to simple living and to radically “share all things in common” (Acts 4:32). Founded by Eberhard Arnold in 1920, the Bruderhof intentional communities are made up of families and single men and women. They have communities in the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom, and have a special mission to care for the Church in Jerusalem.

Plough interviewed John Rhodes, who ran Bruderhof’s business, Community Playthings, which creates beautiful furniture for classrooms and daycares. The Bruderhof business, says Rhodes: “grew in a way that served the community’s needs rather than sucking the life from it.” 

Rhodes’ language actually sounds a lot like the language of Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI! In their respective encyclicals, Populorum Progressio (“The Progress of Peoples”), and Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”), each pope calls for our economic models to serve our brothers and sisters. The Christian Gospel encourages a counter-cultural attitude to let our concern for others lead our business practices rather than concern for profit margins.

As I read the interview, and as I read the messages of our former popes, encouraging Christian models of business, a DeSales at Christmasword that came to my mind was integration. The goal of Christian discipleship is to integrate our walk with Christ into all aspects of our life. Christian businesses ought to strive to integrate our individual spiritual lives of prayer and our communal liturgical life into our business life. Inspired by Rhodes’ interview, then, here are the five main ingredients in creating a good Christian workplace community.

  • People Come First: Lots of companies pay lip-service to “teamwork” or “building relationships.” But you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. For Christians, who believe that God is present in our neighbor, relationships really do come first and foremost. As members of the Body of Christ, we can’t just talk about community or care for our neighbor—we have to live it. We have to make sacrifices for it. Plough’s article places importance on “the economics of love” or what Pope Benedict XVI would call the “economy of gift.” How do we operate according to the “economy of love” rather than by the rules of the market in our workplace?
  • Keep Your Mission at the Center: It seems counterintuitive for businesses to not first and foremost strive to increase profits. But former CEO Rhodes says that: “in reality, money is a surprisingly poor motivator. A much stronger motivator is purpose.” Purpose-driven companies can afford to care for their workers more. They can invest in competitive benefits packages and employee morale. Mission-driven companies can afford to care for the whole person. Because their employees are motivated by mission, not by paycheck, purpose-driven organizations are already lightyears ahead of competitors.
  • Leisure, the Basis of Good Work: Tech companies are infamous for stocking up their office campuses with all the amenities their employees need: gyms, cafeterias, napping pods. While these extra benefits can increase employee well-being, they also extend the hours that employees are at the office. And extended hours at the office can lead to mental stress and burnout, as employees have less time to spend sharing life with their community. Work is a part of our human vocation, but cannot be idolized. Through taking small sabbaths through prayer, silence, and finding restorative niches of creativity and rest with family and community, the worker is energized to make creative, personal work that glorifies God. 
  • Use Technology Judiciously: As a digital communications company, DeSales recognizes that many of our competitors may find this principle strange. Shouldn’t companies in the business of the internet drive consumers to stay on the web? Not for us. The goal of all of our work is to connect communities in real-time, outside of the space of work. We build products that strengthen and foster in-person communities and parishes and connect new members to them.
  • Foster Gratitude: Gratitude is a huge game-changer. German mystic Meister Eckhart is famous for the quote: If the only prayer you said was ‘thank you’ that would be enough. Gratitude helps bolster team morale and begins with leaders—leaders who offer gratitude to employees for the work they do and promote a culture of gratitude and joy in the work environment.

DeSales PartyPlough’s article resonates with our work at DeSales, because we prioritize serving and caring for our work community. One of our four main goals is to “be an inspiring place for Catholics to work.” We try to incorporate our Catholic faith into what we do through praying together twice daily as a whole workplace community, by celebrating birthdays and special occasions as a community, by offering solidarity and aid to victims of natural disasters as an organization, and by committing as an organization to invest in the personal, professional, and spiritual development of each member of the staff. 

To make teamwork and relationship our true goals, we have to work to place our coworkers first. Putting people first, rather than company goals, might seem like a risk. But we believe that this is a risk worth taking: you can’t preach the Gospel if you’re not living it at home (or at work). How are you helping to form your workplace according to Christ’s kingdom today?

 

Interested in working at DeSales Media? We have positions open. Check out our careers page for more information.