Interesting fact: Father Michael LaMarca once donned the giant head of Buster Bison and pumped up baseball fans as the Buffalo Bisons' mascot. Now he's doing the same for the diocesan Office of Communications, minus the giant Buffalo head.
The pastor of St. Michael Parish in Warsaw will serve as the honorary chairman of the annual Catholic Communication Campaign. In this role, he will cheer on the office and encourage supporters of the office to contribute to the annual campaign. The Office of Communications publishes the Western New York Catholic newspaper, produces videos and manages diocesan websites and social media accounts.
In 1979, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Catholic Communication Campaign to respond to the national and local communications needs of the Church. Unlike most collections, half the money collected stays in the diocese and the other half is sent to the national office to fund the development and production of a wide range of media initiatives.
"I am impressed with how the Communications department has and continues to work at reinventing itself after consolidating, facing difficult cuts, but still carrying on the mission and the importance of their department," Father LaMarca said in between shooting public service announcements and photo shoots for his new role. "I'm excited to see how the product of what we did today comes out, because you only have to look at how the product of the videos has been to see, while they're have been cuts and changes, the quality has not suffered."
In the past year, the Office of Communications have lost Daybreak TV Productions and its Radio Ministry due to budget cuts. Now the office is looking for ways to fill in the gaps caused by those losses.
"I often hear from brother priests and also from the laity, wouldn't it be nice if the Communications department did X, Y or Z. Well, they can't do X, Y or Z if they don't have the funds," he said, already cheering on support for the Office of Communications.
The West Seneca native is no stranger to the fast-paced world of digital communication. He began using social media to connect with the faithful a few years ago when he was first assigned to St. John Paul II Parish in Lake View. Rather than write a traditional column for the parish bulletin, he created a weekly video blog that he posted on Facebook. He was surprised by the results.
"At first, I thought this is nice. I don't know if it is reaching anybody," he said. "But I would go out and say Mass someplace else, and someone would say, 'We like your parish's Facebook page and we like your videos.' It made me realize that you don't know who you're reaching and how you're impacting them."
Father LaMarca likes how new platforms are evolving all the time, reaching different audiences. Still, for some people nothing beats the reliable hard copy for their information.
"At St. John Paul II, when I was there, we started encouraging our ushers to hand (the Western New York Catholic newspaper) out with the bulletin. It got to the point where people started asking for the Western New York Catholic on weekends when we may have forgot to hand them out."
On the flipside, when St. Michael's did a survey asking people what activities they would like to see at the parish, some people still preferred to answer their two questions online, despite having physical copies right in front of them in the pews.
Father LaMarca hesitates to call it a generational choice, just a preference. He finds himself, at age 32, picking up the physical Western New York Catholic more that reading it online. Last year, he only read it online. Now he sits down to read the paper, then shares the stories he likes when he sees them pop up online.
"It's backwards thing," he said. "By selecting what I want, I'm more enticed to read the whole thing when I have it in front of me."
The Catholic Communication campaign takes place in area parishes the weekend of June 8-9.