Pierre Babin, a “Giant” in Catholic Communication, Has Left Us

10May12

Lyon, May 9, 2012 (SIGNIS) – Pierre Babin is no longer with us. The Founder of CREC and pioneer of the “Symbolic Way” died on 9th May 2012. He goes to the Christ that he strived to bring to all. We remember him as a man of faith, open, convivial and above all a communicator. To be in his company was to experience “the good life” not only for good wine but above all for his warmth…

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In 2011, Pierre Babin received the McLuhan prize for the work of a lifetime

A pioneer of group media, an expert in educational psychology, writer and essayist, Pierre Babin was born in 1925 at Paray-le-Monial, France. He entered the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1942 and was ordained a priest seven years later. He studied theology at the Catholic University of Lyon. Among his teachers there was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He specialized in the relationship between theology and psychology. From 1955, Babin became a professor at the Catholic University of Lyon and then at Paris, Strasbourg, Ottawa and Montreal. In 1971 he founded the Centre for Research and Education in Communication (CREC, www.crecinternational.org) in Lyon, specializing in media training and communication, mainly serving Christian institutions. He published many articles and books that incorporated diverse influences, such as those of Joseph Columb and Marshall McLuhan. In his book L’Ere de la communication (1985) (translated as The New Era in Religious Communication, 1991) Babin showed how to combine media communication and religious calling. He opted for the supremacy of the image (in the broadest sense, incorporating symbol, intuition, music and sound) above any form of “oral” communication. For him, audiovisual language was more than just a simple educational tool used to convey the message of faith. The result was the “Symbolic Way” which, more than a learning method, referred to a state of mind, a new way of understanding realities and cultures.

From the 1980s, Pierre Babin worked with St. John’s University, Bangkok. In 2002, the University awarded him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa. After retiring from Crec Avex in February 2008, Babin became professor and honorary research fellow at the Faculty of Communication Arts at St. John’s University. In September 2008, the University opened the Babin Centre for Communications, which has the task of providing a programme of training and research based on the legacy and vision of Babin. His method and his research has increasingly been the subject of study within the International Group for Faith and Technology (GIFT). In August 2011, Babin received the McLuhan Prize for, named after one of his mentors.

From the 1970s, Babin had close links with OCIC and Unda and with their merger in 2001, with SIGNIS and participated in meetings and projects. Over more than 30 years, Pierre and his “Symbolic Way” taught through CREC, influenced, formed and mentored hundreds of Catholic communicators many of whom are currently very active in the SIGNIS network. His death was met with great sadness in SIGNIS where his legacy as a pioneer in Catholic communications lives on.

Here are some immediate reactions received in the Secretariat from the President Augustine Loorthusamy and from Vice president Peter Thomas:

Augustine Loorthusamy: “(Pierre) was a giant in his field and more than that was a prophet. He was directly responsible for my getting into the world of Media. For more than 30 years he has been a great influence in my life. He was a mentor and a friend.”

Peter Thomas: “There is no doubt in my mind that Babin has been the Marshal McLuhan of Catholic media. I can still feel the media ’vibrations’ as I sit here in an edit suite watching ten large screens. He was a great pioneer in the use of audio visuals for catechetical purposes and a profound influence on my thinking in the decade of the 1980’s”.

You can publish your own condolences and testimonies on the CREC website at www.crecinternational.org. At the end of the obituary, there is a link to write comments

You can also download from the CREC site a document (in French) presenting Pierre Babin’s journey:www.crecinternational.org/new/index.php/babinvoie     http://tinyurl.com/bvmfjv5

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2 Responses to “Pierre Babin, a “Giant” in Catholic Communication, Has Left Us”

  1. 1 Helen Gilmartin

    Pierre taught in St. Michael’s College in Winooski Vt. in the 70’s where I was privileged to have him as my teacher. One day in class he asked if anyone could drive him to Toronto that weekend so that he could interview Marshall Mc Luhan. Pierre, another student, and I left on a Friday afternoon and made it in record breaking time as Pierre drove at 80 mph. The next day we drove to McLuhan’s house where he conducted what I believe to be his first interview with him. Afterwards we visited Niagra Falls and then listened to the recording of the interview that night. Pierre was so delighted with thr recording. Little did I realize the importance of all this to him. I feel so honored to have shared this tiny portion of his life. The next day, we returned to VT by way of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY where we stopped along the shore to celebrate Mass as the sun was setting. He pealed some bark off a birch tree and on it wrote a poem for my friend and me.
    I feel so blessed to have known this wonderful saintly man and to have experienced Jesus through him and his Symbolic Way.

    • Dear Helen, thank you for that wonderful reminiscence of Pierre Babin. I’m sorry that I never met him. However, I’m glad that we Canadians were able to award him The Medium & the Light Award, also referred to as the McLuhan Award, at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, during Marshall McLuhan’s centenary year last year…….AlexK


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