In my house, I’ve taken quite a bit of good-natured ribbing from my young adult children. After all, these days, their somewhat techno-phobic middle-aged mother has a website, a blog, and a podcast. She’s had more hits on Google than a dinosaur throwback to the analog age has a right to expect! Heck, she even gave a public presentation recently on the usefulness of digital media for evangelizing the world. But then again, so has Benedict XVI – and he’s 83!
So why would an aging catechist like myself dare to become a podcaster, a blogger, and use social networks like Facebook and Twitter? There are several reasons, but none more important than this one: the internet is like a second home to my three young adult children.
Having raised a family in the digital age, I have one observation: nowadays the search for meaning often begins with Google. Or Bing. Or Yahoo.
That’s not a joke, that’s a reality.
The search for God is online now. Its not the only place people seek him, but its one of the most accessible.
The fact is, new media technologies are changing the way we live and work. At the same time, it is changing the way Catholics grow and learn about their faith. Many seek spiritual answers and information on the internet in the same way they connect for business, entertainment, or just to find out about the weather. The Generation Y’s and the Millennials will be even more “connected to the internet as its applications expand into the next decade.
Pope Benedict XVI recently compared the web to “a digital sea,” asking Catholics to utilize it for the sake of the gospel. The Holy Father, in a recent address in Rome at a Congress called “Digital Witnesses”, made this savvy appeal:
Let us set sail on the digital sea fearlessly, confronting open navigation with the same enthusiasm that has steered the Barque of the Church for 2,000 years. Rather than for technical resources, although these are necessary, let us also qualify ourselves by dwelling in this world with a believing heart that helps to give a soul to the ceaseless flow of communications that makes up the web.
This is our mission, the inalienable mission of the Church. [Emphasis mine.]
New media technologies are the mission tools of this evangelization. More and more, as a catechist and a writer, I’ve experienced the shifting attentions of my audience, from print and books to electronic media… and from sitting in a class to learning online or from an mp3 file on an iPod.
Let me tell you that despite my media efforts, I’m still more than a tad techno-phobic. But I’ve come to understand that new media, and social media are not some passing fads. And the Church, and Christian apostolates must have a strong presence in cyberspace to handle all those online searches.
So let me suggest myself as Exhibit A. If I can learn how to evangelize using new media, you can too. Let me tell you how I started down this new media path.
First I prayed: to Mother Mary for wisdom, and then to St Peter for courage and inspiration. After all, Peter knows a thing or two about setting sail into deeper water, as the Pope suggests. (Cf. Luke 5.)
Then I registered for an event that really inspired me… and I hope you might consider it too….
Attendees will learn how to evangelize using digital media, with special emphasis given to podcasting and blogging. “Newbies” will learn alongside “veterans” by sharing ways to use new media effectively, all within an atmosphere of Christian community.
The goal of the Catholic New Media Celebration is to inspire and develop individuals and groups to use new media effectively to create powerful, unique content for the benefit of the universal Catholic Church and beyond.
“This year’s CNMC will focus particularly on three things,” says Fr. Roderick Vonhögen, host of “The Break” and CEO of SQPN. “We will be exploring the best practices for creating quality content; how authentic catechesis and spirituality are incorporated; and, how a true sense of mission is instilled in those who consume this media and become a part of our online communities,” he says.
Tracks at the CNMC will focus on three interest areas. First, Fr. Vonhögen will lead of team of SQPN podcasters in a podcasting track. Second, the blogging track will feature presentations by bloggers Thomas Peters of American Papist, Sarah Reinhard of Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering and Rachel Balducci of Testosterhome and Faith and Family Live. Finally, there is a children’s track (limited to first-come, first-served) led by Allyson Sweeney of The Catholic Family Podcast, and Lisa Mladnich of Amazing Catechists.
There’s a “Meet & Greet” reception the night before, and several folks will be going to Mass together the day after. There’s more, but you can read all about it on the CNMC website. Complete details can be found at celebration.sqpn.com.
Two years ago, I was a writer and a catechist. Then I went to the first Catholic New Media Celebration in 2008.
Today I still do those things, but now I do them using digital media.
Think what you can do.
[Pat Gohn is a regular columnist at Today’s Catholic Woman on CE, and she is SQPN’s conference coordinator for the Catholic New Media Celebration in Boston, Aug 6-7.]