The fact that I was educated by the Christian Brothers (at St Brendan’s College in Bristol) did not mean I was not influenced by the Jesuits in my childhood, even though I did not realise it at the time. I was a regular worshipper at the First Sunday Mass in the crypt of St Mary on the Quay in Bristol – a Jesuit parish at the time – and, when I moved to St Bernadette School in Whitchurch for my Sixth Form studies, I encountered the charismatic Fr Paul Edwards SJ who inspired in me a love of performance and public speaking.
These interests proved important when – after briefly exploring a vocation to the priesthood at Oscott College in the 1970s – I began a career in broadcasting. Radio is a very intimate medium and it was my privilege over 15 years as a producer/presenter at the BBC to work on several significant documentary series, including programmes produced specifically for blind and disabled listeners (most notably The Sound of War, which recalled the Bristol Blitzes from the perspective of blind residents), for many of the diverse ethnic groups of the region and – for eight years – religious affairs. As Religious Producer, I helped to lead a party of 250 listeners to the Holy Land in 1985 with outside broadcasts from St George’s Anglican Cathedral and the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem as well as programmes recorded by the lakeside in Galilee.
My work in religious broadcasting provided a strong foundation for a period of four years as Head of Communications at CAFOD. In addition to managing the agency’s press office, this post also involved working with the publications and audio-visual teams, as well as undertaking visits to Thailand and Mozambique where the opportunity to meet and talk with partners in some of the poorest areas of the world had a lasting impact upon me. A vacancy at the Catholic Communications Centre in London (formerly Hatch End) then provided me with the opportunity not only to return to front-line broadcasting and occasional production, but also to share my passion for the media – and radio in particular – with representatives of the Church and faith-based charities. This was also an opportunity to work ecumenically – principally with the Church of England’s Communications Unit (for whom I continue to tutor their Giving Presentation courses). Among the ‘clients’ with whom I came into contact while working as media adviser at the CCC were the Jesuits in Britain!
With the closure of the Catholic Communications Centre in 2000, I worked briefly in a freelance capacity before taking up the position of Communications Officer for the Jesuits, based at their Curia (head office) in central London. This role hopefully draws upon much of the experience I have accumulated over the past few decades, from appreciating the influence of radio to the need of the Church to engage with the media, from contact with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities both in Britain and overseas to having the opportunity to empower others to be effective communicators of the Good News.