Communicators honour Jesuit missionary at World Congress

A Jesuit hailed as an outstanding communicator is being honoured at the SIGNIS World Congress taking place in Rome this week. Canadian, Fr Gaston Roberge SJ (pictured) was a pioneer of media education in India; he will receive a SIGNIS Life Achievement Award, alongside Mgr Roland Abou Jaoude, the founder of the Catholic Information Centre in Lebanon. The SIGNIS Life Achievement Awards recognise SIGNIS members who have made outstanding contributions in the field of Catholic communication.

Gaston Roberge was born in Montreal in 1935 and first came to India as a Jesuit missionary in the 1960s. In 1973, he founded the Chitrabani communications centre in Kolkata. Created with the support of renowned Indian Bengali filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, the centre had the only independent film library in Kolkata. In 1980, Fr Roberge became the first broadcaster of the Radio Veritas Asia Bengali programme, and 12 years later he started Chetana (Awareness), an adult education programme focusing on village women through radio.

Fr Gaston Roberge SJ has published books on communication, cinema, human development and spirituality. His book Communication Cinema Development received a national award at the 46th National Film Festival of India in 1999. He continues to be the senior faculty member at the Department of Mass Communication and Videography at St Xavier's College, Kolkata. He is one of the pioneers who initiated, cultivated and nurtured film academic studies in India.

The 2014 SIGNIS World Congress is taking place in the Domus Pacis Torre Rossa Park Hotel in Rome until 1 March. SIGNIS is the Catholic association of media professionals. The theme for this year's World Congress is "Media for a Culture of Peace: Creating Images with the New Generation". The opening address is being given by another prominent Jesuit, Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, who conducted the interview with Pope Francis - A Big Heart Open To God - published on Thinking Faith, the Jesuits in Britain's online journal last year (link above). In his address to the SIGNIS World Congress, Fr Spadaro will reflect upon the ethical and spiritual dimensions of the emerging digital culture.