Fr. Borna Puskaric of Croatia recently wrapped up media studies at Toronto’s Ryerson University. Photo by Michael Chen

Priest uses media training at Ryerson to improve Croatian Catholic news

  • May 30, 2015

TORONTO - Fr. Borna Puskaric has a major project awaiting him when he returns to his home diocese of Zagreb, Croatia.

Puskaric, a student from Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross church communications graduate program, was sent by his bishop to Toronto for media training to help improve Catholic media in Croatia. Puskaric finished his final semester at Ryerson University’s media school where the 32-year-old priest was sent to gain experience for the diocesan newspaper Glas Koncila or Voice of the Council.

He spent a semester at Ryerson learning public relations, media production and ethics.

Puskaric believes he can improve his newspaper — which like print media elsewhere is experiencing a downturn in subscriptions and readership — and reach more people through improved storytelling and social media.

“I think there is space to improve the way of our storytelling and building a narrative,” he said.

“Media is our stories, experiences and sharing. I could offer a different perspective in addressing some of the issues or problems we have in Church or society… maybe closer to the reality that is happening.”

Writing stories that are “more adept to the present world or society and closer to the reality that is happening” can reach more people, he said, adding the communist-era influence still common in Croatia is not in touch with today’s democratic society. But he sees the change happening already.

“State media is very much influenced by the old guard,” he said. “You can see that in the lay media, it’s going to change when the new people come in.”

Being one of three priests in Croatia active on Twitter, Puskaric hopes this will change when he suggests expanding the use of Facebook and other social media accounts.

Puskaric thinks Catholic media is doing a great job but there is always room for improvement for the larger Catholic audience back home. He already has plans to work with the local Croatian Catholic university and the diocesan communications department as an advisor when he returns.

“The final product of Church media will be more professional... We will see that in terms of our audience who will receive a better product.”

He likens working the media ministry to being in a loving relationship.

“You are leading with God... When you love somebody, you want to give the best to Him,” he says. Producing good work is the “best way and this is what God wants.”

As for studying at a secular university across the Atlantic, it was all new to Puskaric who has studied in a Catholic university since he was 18. But he never tried to hide the fact he was a priest and always wore his collar and black t-shirt.

“I think that I was pretty much the first priest for many of the students to meet... As a priest, we need to show witness,” he said. “One black t-shirt with a white piece of plastic can be a strong sign in an environment like this.”

Initially, students were surprised by their priest as a classmate but soon they and the professors welcomed him as a colleague.

“They thought I entered in the wrong class. I think that some of them were thinking ‘what is this guy doing there?’

“I was just studying, doing my program.”

Puskaric liked the student life at the downtown university and enjoyed debates in class.

“Nobody approached me in the sense as normally people would approach me as priest when I’m in church or in my diocese,” he said.

One student did approach him and asked him to pray for her.

While in Toronto, he stayed in the rectory at St. Michael’s Cathedral, located just steps away from the university.

“I had more time to discover the city and study,” said Puskaric, who speaks Croatian and Italian, yet has learned to pronounce Toronto like a local, calling the city “turonno.”

He reminisces about walking through the fancy Yorkville neighbourhood, the University of Toronto campus, jogging along Lake Ontario as well as quiet time spent reflecting in the financial district.

“I used to walk and pray my rosary and then walk to the skyscrapers. In my city, we don’t have such huge skyscrapers.”

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