Reinventing the parish bulletin

By Scot Landry

(Reprinted from The Boston Pilot, October 29, 2010)
Several pastors and parishioners were intrigued back on Sept. 9 to learn that The Pilot Media Group had acquired the assets of a leading parish bulletin provider and renamed it Pilot Bulletins. Many thought it unusual that a Church organization would acquire a business and wanted to know the goals of such a move.

Old and new bulletin covers

Pope Benedict XVI has been encouraging bishops, priests and lay faithful to embrace the power of the media, particularly the new media, to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ. Perhaps more than any other bishop in the world, Cardinal Seán O’Malley has embraced this call. He has done so personally through his weekly blog and email, and as our archbishop by encouraging CatholicTV, The Pilot, our archdiocesan media team, and our parishes to expand their efforts in evangelization through current and new communication tools.

Cardinal Seán stated in September that “bulletins are such an important tool for communication and evangelization. Parish bulletins reach more Catholics weekly than any other media vehicle in the archdiocese.”

When he formed the Catholic Media Secretariat in July and appointed me to lead it, Cardinal Seán asked me to determine a way to improve the content and quality of our local parish bulletins. Like with CatholicTV, the second-largest Catholic television network in the country, and The Pilot newspaper, the nation’s oldest Catholic newspaper and one of the most prestigious, Cardinal Seán is hoping our entry into producing parish bulletins will raise the bar.

“We are hopeful that Pilot Bulletins will innovate in the ways weekly bulletins share our faith, convey important news, and invite Catholics to important events. We hope to make Pilot Bulletins the best Catholic bulletin service in the country,” he remarked in a news release.

Cardinal Seán wants to “reinvent the parish bulletin.” Currently, about 80 percent of the parishes in the archdiocese and most of the parishes in New England have bulletins that look about the same way that they did 30-40 years ago. They are typically four-page booklets, with a standard cover that looks the same each week and only two pages for information on parish events and messages from the pastor. These bulletins have limited ability to take rich graphics, photos and longer columns. Typically they are printed in black-and-white or in just one color. Some pastors have stated that parishioners often neglect to pick up these bulletins because they look the same from week to week and have limited information. As a communication tool, these bulletins often fail to communicate that the parish is vibrant and has a lot of great things happening.

Pilot Bulletins, formerly ParishComm, has a much more impactful look. It features color covers that can change weekly at the direction of the parish. Most of these covers involve great photos or art that depict the themes of each Sunday Gospel, which pastors or parish staff choose to suit the parish’s preferences. Because the covers are in color and new each week, parishes that shift to this new format report that bulletin readership increases significantly. With the increased readership, parish events often see growth in attendance, which builds our Catholic community.

These bulletins are much larger than the old four-page format and range from 8 to 16 page booklets, depending on the amount of advertisements sold. Parishes can use the extra pages to share larger columns from the pastor, promote parish events, share photos from recent gatherings, include messages from Pope Benedict, Cardinal Seán, popular Catholic columnists and sections for children, and much more. The 50 parishes that currently utilize Pilot Bulletins are very creative in using this space to fit their needs and preferences. Pilot Bulletins will be increasing the content choices for parishes and making it easier for bulletin editors to cut-and-paste information about archdiocesan and other Catholic events that parishioners may want to attend.

Pilot Bulletins are free to parishes because they are sponsored by the advertisers who may be parishioners themselves, or other professionals who want to help a particular parish have a quality communication tool. Many parishes also receive a share of the advertising revenue to fund other ministries.

We invite you to look at some of the bulletins Pilot Bulletins print for parishes that have embraced this new color, large booklet style bulletin. Five examples of our bulletins can be found on the following parish websites: www.StCeciliaBoston.org, www.SaintAgnes.net, www.StJohnsPeabody.com, www.StMonicaMethuen.org, and www.NewburyportCatholic.org.

We hope that all parishes will choose a modern bulletin format for their parishioners, whether they utilize Pilot Bulletins or another provider that adopts similar technology. Additionally, we encourage parishioners to consider the sponsors of their bulletin when they choose a new service provider—it‘s their sponsorship that keeps the bulletin free for the parishes. For more information on the new Pilot Bulletins product, please visit www.PilotBulletins.net. We ask the prayers of Pilot readers for the success of this new endeavor.


Pilot Bulletins is now part of iCatholic Media, Inc.,
and The Pilot Media Group

September 10, 2010 (Braintree, MA) – In an effort to further the Church’s mission of evangelization and enhance parish communication tools, iCatholic Media and its Pilot Media Group division announced today that it has acquired Parish Communications Solutions, Inc., a leading bulletin provider and printing service to parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston and surrounding dioceses. The bulletin service will become part of the Pilot Media Group and be renamed Pilot Bulletins. The printing service will be called Pilot Printing.

The Pilot Bulletins team

The Pilot Bulletins team

“Bulletins are such an important tool for communication and evangelization” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap. “Parish bulletins reach more Catholics weekly than any other media vehicle in the Archdiocese. We are hopeful that Pilot Bulletins will innovate in the ways weekly bulletins share our faith, convey important news, and invite Catholics to important events. We hope to make Pilot Bulletins the best Catholic bulletin service in the country.”

Scot Landry, Archdiocesan Secretary for Catholic Media, said, “Cardinal Seán has been an innovator in utilizing media for evangelization and has been a champion of the idea of offering a great bulletin service to parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston and beyond. In other parts of the country, bulletins are often more than 20 pages with articles on faith topics, columns from Catholic writers, sections for children, plus typically many pages of parish news and events. We want to learn from all of these best practices as we relaunch this service as Pilot Bulletins.”

Antonio Enrique, President of the Pilot Media Group, remarked “The addition of bulletin and printing services to the wide variety of media we already produce will enhance our ability to expand our reach. They provide new editorial and advertising synergies to our current lineup that includes The Pilot newspaper, TheBostonPilot.com, the Boston Catholic Directory and Pilot New Media Group. It is my hope that these expanded capabilities will allow us to work closely with pastors to initiate new ways to share information as a Catholic community.”

Parish Communications Solutions, Inc. was incorporated in 2001 and currently provides bulletins to 48 parishes in the Archdiocese and surrounding dioceses. Co-founder Paul Blanchette commented, “The idea for forming a business to help the Church began on a Cursillo retreat. We initially started as a provider of parish software but soon learned from the parish secretaries we were assisting that parish bulletins hadn’t been significantly improved since the 1960s. So we designed our 4-color bulletin in a magazine format, including a different cover each week, to increase parishioner readership. Bulletin sponsors loved the opportunity to have their ads in colors. ParishComm has grown steadily ever since. It is the fulfillment of our hopes and prayers to become part of iCatholic Media and The Pilot, as we think we will now be able to help even more parishes. We thank Cardinal Seán for his vision and for his confidence in us.”

The bulletin and printing operations will be relocated from Topsfield to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center within the next two months so that they can be co-located with other Pilot Media Group entities. “We hope that our central location in the Pastoral Center will allow us to be a convenient provider of printing services to the parishes, ministries and agencies of the Archdiocese, as well as to our bulletin sponsors,” according to Blanchette. “We’ve found that we can typically save parishes 25-50% on their printing jobs, so we hope many parishes will give us a shot to earn their printing business.”

Pastors will retain their right to choose their bulletin service provider. “We believe deeply in the Church’s principle of subsidiarity and, therefore, we respect the rights of pastors and parish leadership to select the bulletin provider that best meets a parish’s needs. Pilot Bulletins are a great product and the ParishComm team has been praised for its service by parishes throughout the Archdiocese. We hope that parishes currently utilizing other bulletin providers will want to learn more about how Pilot Bulletins can help advance their communication and evangelization efforts, and consider us the next time their bulletin contract comes up for renewal,” mentioned Landry. “Personally, I look forward to discussing these bulletin and printing services with parishes and also sharing the many ways the newly formed Pilot Media Group can help parishes with their websites and other digital media tools.”

“Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Seán have called the Church to utilize all forms of media to hand on our great Catholic Faith.”

“In July, when Cardinal Seán formed the Catholic Media Secretariat, he clearly hoped that a bulletin service would be added as one of our media organizations,” stated Father Robert Reed, President of the CatholicTV® Network. “He asked iCatholic Media’s management and trustees to support this change and we have. We think that bulletins are an important communication and evangelization tool and we hope that the new Pilot Bulletin Service will enhance the quality and the content of parish bulletins throughout the region. We see many ways in which the bulletins and CatholicTV can help each other to fulfill our missions of bringing the Good News, as well as parish and archdiocesan information, to all those we encounter.”

Cardinal O’Malley announced the formation of the Catholic Media Secretariat effective on July 1, 2010. Concurrently, the Trustees of iCatholic Media, Inc. approved a reorganization that formed two complementary divisions, the CatholicTV® Network and the Pilot Media Group. “In addition to placing all the media entities into one secretariat, Cardinal Seán desired to have all all of them in one corporate organization that would be dedicated to innovation in evangelization,” said Jay Fadden, Vice-President and General Manager of the CatholicTV Network. “We believe that having all these entities within the iCatholic Media Corporate organization, now including Bulletin and printing capabilities, will allow all of them to help each other point more people to the saving love of Jesus Christ.”

With this acquisition, the Archdiocese of Boston is believed to be the first diocese or archdiocese in the United States with the four core media vehicles of a television station, newspaper, new media group and bulletin service. “Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Seán have called the Church to utilize all forms of media to hand on our great Catholic Faith,” explained Landry. “We are blessed here in the Archdiocese with several ways to do just that and we ask the prayers of those throughout the Archdiocese for the success of these new initiatives.”

Additional information about this acquisition was published in the September 17, 2010 edition of The Pilot.

About iCatholic Media, Inc.:

iCatholic Media, Inc. is the corporate parent of The Pilot Media Group and the CatholicTV Network.

About The Pilot Media Group:

Founded in 1829 The Pilot is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston and America’s oldest Catholic newspaper. Published 49 weeks per year, The Pilot delivers news, comment and analysis on issues of the day from a Catholic perspective. TheBostonPilot.com is an award-winning Catholic news website and The Pilot has a presence on Kindle, Facebook, Twitter and has iPhone and IPad applications. The Pilot’s Archdiocesan Catholic Directory is published each January with complete statistics and information for all the parishes, schools, agencies, ministries of the Archdiocese as well as information on clergy, religious, deacons and employees of the Archdiocese. The Pilot New Media group serves parishes and ministries with website and social media design and implementation. In September 2010, the Pilot launched Pilot Bulletins and Pilot Printing after it acquired Parish Communications Solutions, Inc. of Topsfield, MA.