An important step was taken last week in the effort to bring pastoral leaders into the 21st century when it comes to understanding and using electronic media channels and social media as part of their ministry. The Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola of Chicago held a launch event and panel presentation to celebrate their new Masters of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree that has a concentration in Digital Communication.
Their website describes the 36-credit program in this way:
The first program of its kind in the US, the Concentration in Digital Communication combines courses from Loyola’s IPS and its School of Communication. As the contemporary world – and with it, today’s Church – is ever more driven and influenced by content delivered through digital platforms and social media, it is critical that pastoral leaders be skilled in the use of the newest tools for effective evangelization and outreach.
In the program description, they say:
In order to reach current and future generations of youth and young adults, it is critical that pastoral leaders be skilled in the use of digital media for evangelization and outreach. This degree concentration will allow IPS students to hone their communication skills and learn best practices for using digital media in the dissemination of parish/congregation/diocese news, events, and the message of the Gospel in order to reach a wider audience than is possible through, but not excluding, conventional print media.
Hopefully, graduate level degrees in the area of digital communication for pastoral leaders will become more common in the future and as they do, the level of competency and effectiveness of Church leaders in using digital media will become greater. We have an urgent need to become more pastoral and more professional in our use of digital communications in parishes, dioceses, and other ministries. Educated professionals will help us to raise our standards in terms of what we put on the Internet and how we use social media for ministry.
Archbishop Blase Cupich from Chicago offered the opening remarks for the launch event. You can read them here.
The panel that the Archbishop introduced was moderated by the distinguished journalist and retired Loyola professor, Don Wycliff. The three panelists (all of whom are millennials and leaders in Church-related ministries) were Rocco Palmo (Whispers in the Loggia), Kerry Weber (America Magazine), and Fr. Manuel Dorantes (Vatican Communications). You can view the recording here.
Recently installed Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, VT (the first blogging priest to become a bishop) was originally scheduled to be on the panel, but was unable to attend. Rocco Palmo encouraged attendees to read the Bishop’s installation homily for his focus for ministry. Here is one quote from that homily that resonated with me:
Besides getting our own selves and our own houses in order, brothers and sisters, I challenge myself and you to follow the Lord’s lead to “go out.” We are no longer the Church of the establishment in which if we just open our doors and ring the bells people will come. That is not happening. In fact, we are opening our doors and people are not coming. They are leaving. We have to change the paradigm to that of a missionary Church, one that has to go out and engage the wider community in our ongoing acts of Christian mercy and in our words and conversation.
I have given you a lot to read and view in this week’s post, but I believe that each of these resources will enrich and encourage everyone who wants to use the new technologies to advance the mission of the Church.