After having attended the fourth annual Catholic New Media Convention hosted by SQPN.com (the Star Quest Production Network), I’ve been happily musing about a wonderful development in the world of Catholic New Media: the rise in the number of “connected” clerics.
The trend towards acceptance of – and even embracing of – these powerful social communications tools by the Church has built in recent years, but my own personal experience was that it was largely the laity leading the way. An exception to this trend is, of course, my friend and mentor to many, Father Roderick Vonhögen, often referred as the “founder” of Catholic podcasting. This early pioneer broadcasted some of the very first Catholic podcasts live from the Vatican during the events surrounding the death and funeral of Blessed Pope John Paul II. He went on to found SQPN and has inspired countless other podcasters – priests, sisters, and lay men and women – to pick up their microphones and share their passion for the faith in new and exciting ways.
While he prefers a pen to a mouse, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI made headlines around the world when he employed an iPad to launch the first papal tweet, announcing the launch of the News.va portal featuring a full range of social media tools.
Another “wired” priest I’m proud to call a friend is Father Jay Finelli, whose iPadre podcast is only one facet of his techno-savvy expertise. Father Jay regularly hosts live streaming of his parish’s Holy Hours, inviting the faithful from around the world to join his local community in worship.
Father Robert Barron – known as the force behind the stunningly beautiful Catholicism Project – has been employing YouTube to reach out to millions of viewers, reaching and communicating with not only Catholics, but notably with the un-churched young male demographic that frequents YouTube. His videos addressing popular culture topics have gone viral and point to an exciting use of these new technologies and their power to change perceptions and opinions and to engage in meaningful dialogue.
Perhaps my favorite new “wired” acquaintance is Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, who recently demonstrated just how tuned in he is by attending the CNMC as a participant. Many of us have been following Bishop Coyne’s inspirational “tweets” at Twitter.com/bishopcoyne. In 140 characters or less he comments on Church news, delivers daily “mini homilies,” teaches us about the liturgical calendar and saints, and connects with the faithful well beyond the constraints of his diocese. While I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Bishop Coyne personally, I have been praying for his service and leadership and continue to benefit daily from his sharings online.
Over on the relatively new social network Google Plus, my “tech priests” circle of contacts has been growing daily as holy clerics from around the world hop on board and connect. Their presence there amidst a largely “techie” user base points again to our priests’ growing passion for reaching their flocks in new and exciting ways. I have no doubt that the relationships these men are building online will educate, inspire, and that it will also encourage other young men to consider vocations to the priesthood.
Is your priest wired or do you have a favorite seminarian, priest, bishop or cardinal you’re connected with online? How do you feel about the use of the latest tech tools by our spiritual shepherds?