by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you attend college, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
Eamonn: I studied audio and video production at a local technical college here in Toronto before entering the workforce. Growing up as a kid in small-town Ontario, Canada, I had always really loved both music and technology. So, when I had the opportunity to study sound recording techniques and do in-studio lab work, it was always the most exciting and rewarding for me.
Gordon: When did you serve as Assistant Manager of Programming at the NHL Network and what were your primary responsibilities?
Eamonn: In summer of 2001 I was hired by TSN in Toronto (the Canadian version of ESPN, if you will) to help launch a new 24-hour national hockey television network in partnership with the National Hockey League. The NHL Network hit the airwaves at the start of the 2001 NHL season. I was hired initially as a programming coordinator, strategically creating the short and long-range broadcast schedule. I was then promoted to Assistant Manager of Programming and took on the added duties of negotiating and securing rights for programming to air on the network, as well as negotiating rights in order to sell the programming that the network produced in-house to networks in Europe and Asia. Eventually the entire NHL Network crew assisted in launching the network in the United States, which was a very unique situation – one that I don’t think has happened before, or since – where a Canadian network was taken nationally throughout the USA, but it was quite a feat. The NHL Network in Canada ceased operating however, when TSN lost rights to air NHL in Canada, and the relationship between the league and broadcaster devolved to the point where it was decided to end the partnership of operating the network in Canada. It remains on-air still today throughout the United States.
Gordon: When did you serve as Program Coordinator at the Office of Catholic Youth, Archdiocese of Toronto and what were your primary responsibilities?
Eamonn: One Sunday in the Winter of 2014, I introduced myself to a guest priest who was celebrating Mass at our parish for our Pastor. This visiting priest happened to be the director of the youth office in our archdiocese. In discovering the fact that I was no longer employed, he initially asked if I would be able to use give up some of my new-found free time and serve as a volunteer at their annual Steubenville Toronto conference. A vacancy was created a short time later at his Office of Catholic Youth (OCY, for short) and I started as a program coordinator on Cinco de Mayo of that same year. As program coordinator my work focused primarily on our Totus Tuus summer camp and missionary program. I also took on the task of overseeing the production team for the Steubenville conferences each summer, which was an amazing experience to be part of.
Gordon: When were you promoted to Associate Director at the Office of Catholic Youth, Archdiocese of Toronto, and what are some of the challenges in communicating with young people, and how did you address them?
Eamonn: After working four years as programming coordinator, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve as associate director of programs, technology and communications for the Office of Catholic Youth. I took on the entire Steubenville Toronto conference portfolio, managing all aspects of the conference, for several years before it was sadly cancelled due to the pandemic. I also redesigned and relaunched the office’s websites, helped to grow the OCY’s social media presence, and helped plan and launch their annual young adult conference called Renew Toronto.
As website traffic dropped among youth and social media engagement increased steadily year over year, it was certainly a challenge in communicating with youth and young adults throughout the archdiocese. Desktop web design took a backseat, and we focused on mobile-friendly, responsive design elements. Fortunately, the OCY acts as a support to parishes and youth and young adult ministers, so we always worked hard to maintain good, solid relationships with these people who minister to youth in their parishes and regions. The office provides ongoing support and training on all aspects of ministry, including effective communication with youth. One challenge was when it became very trendy to give up social media for Lent – a lot of youth and youth ministers did this (and continue to) and that’s when we really found out how much we all were relying on social media to spread the word on events and programs - it certainly made us re-evaluate our strategies and adjust accordingly. It became very hard to inform people of upcoming events during the weeks of Lent, which just happened to coincide with the weeks of registering for our Steubenville Conference and for parishes to register for our Totus Tuus summer camp.
Gordon: When were you appointed Communications Manager of the Archdiocese of Toronto and what are your primary responsibilities?
Eamonn: In October of 2022, I transferred to the Office of Communications and Public Relations and currently serve as the communications manager for the archdiocese. Having a good amount of experience working in media, a background in technology as well as just short of a decade working in ministry at OCY, it feels as though this position is a natural fit for me. I can use my gifts to communicate in written form in media releases, news articles for the archdiocesan website, as well as supporting all of the different departments with creating content and communication pieces. I had the great fortune of working for Cardinal Thomas Collins in his final days as archbishop before he retired, assisting him in coordinating many media interviews surrounding the sad occasion of the passing of Pope Benedict. I also produced His Eminence’s last webinar (as archbishop anyhow – we hope he comes and records many more as archbishop-emeritus in the future!) for the archdiocesan stewardship office. He is such an articulate man, an avid reader, and a brilliant communicator.
I now have the privilege of working for our newly installed Archbishop Francis Leo. Earlier this year I helped plan his Mass of Installation and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful liturgies I’ve ever witnessed. There were a handful of Cardinals and 60 or so Bishops from across Canada seated on the altar, in addition to several hundred priests taking up a good portion of the pews at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in downtown Toronto. It was broadcast live on two television networks and streamed online to faithful all over the world. We even installed an LED wall in the courtyard of the Cathedral Basilica so that those who would not fit inside the church could still participate and view the Mass from just outside the church doors. Archbishop Leo’s homily during his installation Mass was a captivating and thoughtful preview of what we can expect from him as our new shepherd. Archbishop Leo is a young, energetic and enthusiastic servant, and to top it off he is a polyglot so it is absolutely fascinating to witness him after Mass, greeting people so flawlessly and seamlessly in all sorts of different languages – what a blessing to have someone with such wonderful communication skills in so many languages leading such a diverse community (the Archdiocese of Toronto is Canada’s largest diocese, and one of the most diverse faith communities in the world, serving as the spiritual home to approximately two million Catholics with close to 400 priests celebrating Mass in more than 30 languages each week at our 225 parishes).
Gordon: What in you opinion can be done to reduce and better control the forest fires in Canada?
Eamonn: At the time of this interview (July 2023) wildfires have destroyed close to 25-million acres of forest and they continue to burn in areas coast to coast across Canada. This is roughly the same land-area as all of Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont, COMBINED. Canada, like the United States, is a beautiful country with many different types of terrain: from the Rocky Mountains in the West, through the prairies, the Canadian shield, the arctic tundra, the Great Lake region, right out to the stunningly rugged East coast of Canada. It is very sad to see parts of this normally picturesque burning and being destroyed. From what I understand about the situation (I’m very far from an expert on the topic), most of the fires this summer were started through lightning strikes that easily ignited the extra-dry and warm forest lands. At present, we keep all who are affected by this disaster in our prayers, those – including firefighters - who have passed away because of these fires, as well as all impacted by the smoke that is released and travels without borders or boundaries. Looking to the future, Canada has roughly one-tenth the population of the United States, so we don’t have the resources available to us at the same scale as is the case in the States. But it has become abundantly clear that more resources and perhaps a different emergency strategy needs to be considered sooner rather than later, to prevent these types of travesties from reoccurring.
Gordon: Thank you for an informative interview.