Church Ministry and the Digital Age Part II

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on August 16, 2010

in Catholic, technology, Uncategorized

The Catholic Church has always been in the forefront of using communications media for mission and ministry. Pope Paul VI wrote in On Evangelization in the Modern World, “The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not use these powerful means [of social communication] that human skill is daily rendering more perfect. It is through them that she proclaims “from the housetops” the message of which she is the depository.”  We agree that this is important–but we have the ever-present challenges of time and money (not enough of either).

Time and money are always about priorities. If we really think something is important, we find the time and money—not always overnight, but we work at it, we engage others in the cause and eventually we achieve our goal. That’s how we built our churches, our schools, and other institutions. Now we have a new infrastructure to build—an infrastructure that will also support our mission and ministry.

A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute. Just as the prophet Isaiah envisioned a house of prayer for all peoples (cf. Is 56:7), can we not see the web as also offering a space – like the “Court of the Gentiles” of the Temple of Jerusalem – for those who have not yet come to know God? Benedict XVI Message for World Communications Day, May 16, 2010.

We must restructure our ministry around the new realities of the digital age. We start by asking ourselves how we can use technology to communicate with all of the groups we are called to serve, including those who are in church on Sunday as well as those who are not there. We can bring creativity to our efforts. We can learn from people who are using technology now. We will learn from our mistakes. Yes, we will make mistakes, but that is better than fading into irrelevance. The more people are interacting with and within our community, the more likely membership will grow, the more likely mission will flourish.

Today, people often choose to interact over the Internet—we need to be there with and for them, offering faith, hope, love; guidance, truth, and support. We also want to take in their feedback, questions, ideas, joys, sorrows, hopes and aspirations. It is a challenge, but we are up to it.

What does it mean to you to see the Church using new technologies as one way to bring people to Christ? Please share your answer in the comment section below. Thank you.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joyce Donahue August 16, 2010 at 7:30 am

Using technology and the internet for evangelization seems like a logical response to the modern world. Jesus always went to places where people were to preach, as did the apostle Paul. This, really, is no different. Catholic blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages etc, are a way to “preach” where a significant number of people spend their time. Communicating beliefs, opinions on current events based on our beliefs, and even, on occasion, teaching in a gentle way are all options which electronic communication can facilitate – to a larger audience than we might be able to reach in person, with literally no national boundaries.

In addition, I have found that in situations where we, as disciples of Christ can develop online relationships with others, both believers and non-believers, it gives us a tool to communicate our love and concern and to support others in their times of challenge, and to receive such support from others. I find the “virtual world” a great forum for sharing faith, and am glad to see many Catholics using it to reach out.

Steve Smith August 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I am glad to see that the Church is utilizing the new technologies. I know from my own blogs, what a world wide audience can be reached. I have had visitors to my blogs from every continent around the world. Every day I have visitors from Ireland, the UK, Singapore, the Russian Federation, Peru and even middle eastern nations such as United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia. One never knows what impact they might have on someone else.

Angela Santana August 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

This is a wonderful post, and I wish more Catholic ministry leaders would read it! 🙂

David Byers September 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm

After 30 years at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I am now serving as a planning consultant to the Diocese of Salina, Kansas. We completed a Pastoral Plan in the spring, and are now creating the structures–for example, forming small parishes into groups of two, three and four–to enable its practical implementation. It is time to create a support and communications system that will help the Catholics of Salina work together to bring the Pastoral Plan alive. The sound use of technology offers a way, in conjunction with a wise Pastoral Plan, to revitalize a diocese–especially a rural diocese where 20 or 25 miles separate country parishes that typically serve fewer than 100 households. Communications technology was made for Home Mission America!

Susan Timoney September 16, 2010 at 9:13 am

The Archdiocese of Washington just launched a pastoral initiative for the New Evangelization. One piece of it is the ability of people to register to receive an Email from the archdiocese with important news, response to breaking news in involving the church and regular letters from Archbishop Wuerl that enables him to communicate with a larger number of people in a more personal way. Take a look at the website at http://www.adw.org and click on “come join us.” In the first four hours of the posting of the pastoral letter, the webiste received 5,000 new hits!

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