July 3, 2018 — The Jesuit Communication Project (JCP), headed by retiring Father John Pungente, SJ, is wrapping up 40 years of intelligent conversation about what we see, hear and read in modern media.
A project of the Jesuits in English Canada, the JCP aimed to provide “a variety of resources and services for teachers, parents, church groups, school boards, students and other interested groups to encourage, promote and develop Media Education across Canada.”
Its 1987 “Media Literacy Resource Guide,” written by the Jesuit Communication Project with the Association for Media Literacy, was translated into French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese and shaped lesson plans around the world.
That success was followed up by television programs, websites, teachers’ guides and popular books that shaped how generations have thought about movies, media, technology and the power of stories in our culture.
At age 78, Fr. Pungente is stepping back from the Project, albeit with some difficulty.
“I have tried to follow the advice of Pope Francis — to walk beside the pilgrim, helping them to watch carefully and to think critically,” he said at a reception at Toronto’s Regis College attended by dozens of Jesuits and collaborators who worked with him.
Over the years the Jesuit Communication Project made its biggest impression outside the classroom with “Scanning the Movies,” a half-hour program which held a prime-time slot on Bravo! Canada from 1997 to 2008.
In 1997, “Scanning Television” was introduced into classrooms across the country, with 40 short videos and a comprehensive set of lesson plans that helped teachers get kids thinking critically about what they see on TV.
When “Scanning the Movies” finished its run, Fr. Pungente went on to host “Beyond the Screen” in 2008.
The JCP also helped organize the largest-ever education convention dedicated to media education. “Summit 2000: Children, Youth and the Media — Beyond the Millennium” brought 1,400 delegates from 55 countries to Toronto.
In 2014, the JCP and Fr. Pungente were among the first recipients of the McLuhan Institute’s Medium and Light Award. In 2017, Fr. Pungente was given a lifetime achievement award by the global Catholic film and media organization SIGNIS.
“Media literacy, media education, media studies, call it what you will … they are the path I’ve taken to this point in my life, hopefully with more to come,” said Fr. Pungente. “Virtual reality anyone?”
Fr. Pungente will continue to serve as editor of igNation, an English Canadian Jesuit blog.