Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation founded to communicate God’s Word through the media. She will be a keynote speaker at the CCSTA AGM in Yellowknife this June.
She is finishing her M.A. in Media Literacy Education; has a B.A.in theology and philosophy from St. John’s University, NYC; studied screenwriting at UCLA and Act One, Hollywood; and holds a Certificate in Pastoral Youth Ministry. Sr. Helena also studied at the Theology of the Body Institute, PA.
She is a movie reviewer for Life Teen, The Catholic Channel–Sirius XM, and her blog. She wrote and directed a documentary on the life of Blessed James Alberione, and she is currently writing high school Theology of the Body curriculum. She has written a daily book for young women, called, “He Speaks to You”, and she is also a regional vocation directress for the Daughters of St. Paul.
Sr. Helena gives Media Literacy and Theology of the Body workshops to youth and adults all over Canada and the U.S., and believes that media can be a primary tool for sharing God’s love and salvation. (She is a dual–not duel–citizen: an AmeriCanadian.)
CCSTA connected with her to get a taste for what we can expect at her talk. Here’s what she had to say:
CCSTA: What pulled you toward becoming a nun? And specifically, a media nun?
Sr. Helena: I never wanted to be a nun! All my life I wanted to do something with animals, the environment, conservation. Everyone knew that. But God called me and turned my life upside down, or rather, right side up. I was in contact with so many different congregations of Sisters and willing to do anything God was asking. But little by little it became clear that God wanted me to do the spiritual works of mercy rather than the corporal works of mercy. I wanted to help peopIe in spiritual pain, people who were searching for meaning in their lives, searching for God. I always loved writing, creating and the arts, and I enjoyed media so much I thought: What better way to give people God than bring Him directly into their minds and hearts through a book, a song, a film?
CCSTA: Your blog is terrific, and your movie reviews are great! How do people normally react when they learn more about what you do as a media nun?
Sr. Helena: It seems that Daughters of St. Paul are the only congregation of Sisters in the world founded solely to evangelize with media. So, that in itself is unique enough to be intriguing to people. Sometimes people are surprised to discover that our Sisters are so active on social media and understand the jargon of our digital, new media world. Then we tell them this is our mission and they start to ask questions about how it can possibly be a ministry, how does it sync with our prayer life, etc., and it’s a great opportunity to talk how we can all use media well in our lives, and how it’s totally compatible with religious life! Jesus said that we are the light of the world.
CCSTA: Why do you think it’s so important to reach out through the digital formats?
Sr. Helena: Blessed James Alberione, our Founder, said: “We are not called to save people who lived two centuries ago and had no radio, television or cinema.”www.MediaApostle.com. It’s as simple as that. Pope Benedict started the papal Twitter account. But before he agreed to it he asked: “So, you’re telling me that this form of media will put me in touch with people whom we can’t reach any other way?” When he was told that was correct, he said: “Then let’s do it!” People who don’t know any Christians or have never been to church can meet with Christians online. Young people in particular love having access to priests and nuns online. It’s all a great deal of fun also when you can share jokes and hockey and people can see that Catholics/Christians/clergy/religious are human and approachable.
CCSTA: What message do you plan to bring to the CCSTA AGM? What do you hope the attendees get from it?
Sr. Helena: I will be talking about using Theology of the Body as a tool of discernment for watching films (for ourselves and young people), and also about Social Media and Youth. I talk to young people about being “Digital Catholics.” How can we be good digital Catholics online? They have lots of great ideas!
CCSTA: Why is it important to have conversations about Catholic education in Canada?
Sr. Helena: Our world is rapidly changing in so many ways, and the Church has to keep up to help our young people through all the confusion. Sometimes we think they don’t want to hear what we, what the Church has to say, that they want to take the easy way, but they don’t. They’ve heard the pretty lies. They want to hear something else, even if they know it’s going to be hard. They need to be captured by the beauty of the Catholic Faith.
CCSTA: Have you ever been to Yellowknife? Anything on your bucket list while you’re there?
Sr. Helena: I have never been that far west in Canada! The farthest west I’ve been is Alberta. I’m terribly excited. My American friends think I’m going to the MOON. And even Canadians here in Ontario think it’s pretty amazing. One of my Sisters in Toronto (who is originally from Alaska) is still jealous that I’m going to the Northwest Territories because she’s never been. I have no idea what to expect or put on a bucket list. Surprise me!