“New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age.” Pope Benedict XVI, Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age
As I put the finishing touches on this – my first in a series of contributions here at Catholic Exchange on New Media evangelization and its place in our lives and our Church – I am en route to the fourth annual Catholic New Media Conference where communicators from around the country will be gathering to “wonder” at the “new horizons” being explored in today’s Catholic Church. The annual CNMC is a gathering of geeks who come together to share ideas, to be nourished spiritually, and then to depart energized and informed about new trends in digital evangelization.
There is much to celebrate as we assemble to swap ideas. In the past year alone, a few significant events have signaled our Church’s readiness to embrace and truly capitalize upon these exciting modern ways of sharing the good news:
- Author Brandon Vogt – a millennial and a convert to the faith – assembled a team of contributors to successfully publish The Church and New Media. Proceeds from this advanced look at the role of social communications in the Church were used to open a new computer lab in the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya.
- At Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida, Thomas Sanjurjo has been newly hired as the Electronic Outreach Director. In his role within the parish, he will employ and will work to educate parishioners and ministries about employing twenty-first century technologies in their homes and parish.
- In several parishes in the state of Illinois, the technology startup Maximum Media Streaming is working directly with parishes to provide “Church Cast” live streaming technology that gives parishioners direct access Mass and parish events online, enabling homebound parishioners (or distracted moms who missed a great homily) to access parish celebrations and liturgies.
Similar examples abound, and I look forward to sharing them with you here in this space as we watch new technologies and new “best practices” emerge. But as a parent, I also recognize the muddying of the waters created by such rapid changes in the role of technology in our lives. Since I began parenting teens seven years ago, I’ve had to learn to text, to tweet, and most importantly to teach my sons – now twenty and seventeen – how to employ these wonderful tools without losing their souls. Being effective in this, my most important duty as a mom, means staying abreast of new and evolving trends and seeing them through the prism of my Catholic faith.
As such, I hope to provide fodder for an ongoing conversation here about the place of technology in our homes – from Netflix to Nintendo and beyond – and about its impact upon our souls. While some parents may simply choose to avoid the introduction of such media in their homes, those of us who are raising the future leaders of our Church, and her future priests, sisters and religious, must continually educate ourselves in these rapidly developing technologies that are fundamentally transforming the way the Good News – and news in general — is shared.
In his recent message for the 45th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholic geeks like me to embrace the latest and greatest tools for sharing our faith. “Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others.” To me, a mom, a parish webmaster, and a spiritual seeker, this is a clarion call from a pontiff who in the past year launched a new Vatican web presence from an iPad, texted with hundreds of thousands of youth in Madrid, and assembled a meeting of bloggers from around the world to discuss our role in the New Evangelization.
In the space for comments below, I would love your thoughts and ideas on topics you would like to see addressed in this column space and your challenges and joys at the role of social media in our lives and in our Church. Together, we will tackle these topics and do our best to make sense of them and to explore and celebrate new twists and trends in our faith and in our world.