Turning 70 in the Social Media Age

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on February 28, 2017

in New Evangelization, social media

On Ash Wednesday, I turn 70. A few years back, an interviewer from a Catholic radio station asked me: “Sister, did you think when you entered the convent that you would someday be doing all this work on the Internet?” You can guess my answer: “No, I didn’t. When I entered the convent, the Internet hadn’t been invented yet.”

Now we have several generations that can’t image life without the Internet. Amazing!

The Technology Journey

I started my ministry career using manual typewriters, mimeographs, ditto machines, carbon paper, rotary phones, filmstrips, black and white TV, Kodak film, etc. and I graduated from word processors, PCs, floppy disks, main frames and desktops, to laptops, mobile phones, tablets, texting and emojis. I adopted email and online conferencing and courses as they came along. Today I publish my own blog and am very active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I create evangelizing content including videos for parishes to post on their websites and Facebook Pages. I encourage parishes to offer evangelizing websites. Who knows what will be next.

For me, it is all about using the best tools available to help as many people as possible to know and love God better; to enrich their lives with the gifts of faith and to enhance their ministries with new resources. I believe social media tools greatly improve our ability to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth. I believe, as I say in my Catholic Web Solutions slogan:

The Internet is a mission field. Let’s be there!
The Internet is a ministry tool. Let’s use it!

The world has changed, but the basic needs of people have not. The world will continue to change, but our faith is timeless. “God is love and everyone who abides in love, abides in God.” We can always witness to that.

The Challenge

For those in ministry not yet using their website and social media to proclaim the Good News, I remind them that no matter how full their churches may be, less than half of their registered members are there every week. Furthermore, 25% of people in the U.S. profess no religious affiliation. For those between 18 and 29 the percentage is 39%. These are the “nones” (non-affiliated). The majority of nones were affiliated with a religion at some time in their lives. Those who are not in church are part of our mission as much as those who are there.

While I admit that technology presents challenges that some in ministry are not ready or able to address, I believe the real reason behind the failure to embrace the new technology to share the faith is a failure to embrace the new evangelization as individuals and institutions.  When we care passionately about spreading the Gospel and welcoming others into our communities, we will do everything we can, not just what “we have always done” to make it happen-whether it is online or in person. If we are not doing one, it is highly likely that we are not doing the other.

A special note to those who really can’t use social media in their ministry for whatever reason. It is okay. Just don’t dismiss it or put down those who do. Empower someone who can. Show your support for this ministry whenever possible and strengthen your own person to person outreach beyond the church doors, both are needed. When a social media enthusiast approaches you, simply say, “It’s not for me, but I hope that you will use it (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever) to bring glory to God in every way that you can.”

The Mandate

We have not only an opportunity but a duty to reach out in communicating the love and truth of God in person and online. If we don’t, who will?

P.S. You can read more about the “Nones” here http://www.prri.org/research/prri-rns-poll-nones-atheist-leaving-religion/ The news is not good.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth February 28, 2017 at 6:46 am

Hi Sister,
Want to wish you a happy birthday and a big thank you for everything you have become involved in. My birthday is the next day and I’ll be 72. Don’t know what I’d do without the Internet and social media (mainly Facebook…I have a person page, two craft related pages and I’m facilitator of my parish’s FB page and have another FB page for my own personal Catholic website). And if it weren’t for our two adult sons I probably wouldn’t even own a computer!! 😉 I’ve followed pretty much the same path as you with regard to the Internet and social media though you’re just a few steps ahead of me with some of it. I love all of what you say and especially agree with “The Internet is a mission field. Let’s be there! The Internet is a ministry tool. Let’s use it!” Have a wonderful birthday tomorrow!!!

Ruth Viens

Pat February 28, 2017 at 7:06 am

Blessings on your 70th Susan! A great time to thank you for all the practical information, encouragement and inspiration to help us use the internet as a means of communication and an evangelization tool. We are blessed to have someone like you who is accessible. Your blog over the months and years has given me for one the confidence needed to make better use of technology. Thank you!

Tony Krisak February 28, 2017 at 8:14 am

I join many in wishing you a happy birthday on this hallmark occasion. And I give thanks to God for blessing you with a faith that is open to new and lively expressions through use of contemporary means of communication. May you enjoy many more years of paving a way for us to express our faith and in reaching out in mission to many.

Trish February 28, 2017 at 8:37 am

Happy Birthday! I am a little bit younger than you ( 60 this year) but also grew up with black and white TV and rotary phones. If we don’t evangelize to the youth we have no future. I am 100% with you about empowering the youth. JPII touched so many of them- and they are now having children of their own. Is our parish welcoming those families? Are we working on family centered ministries? Let’s get some of them on parish councils, and finance councils. Let’s let the Holy Spirit fire them up with their promise and passion for God.
Thank you for all you have done to help us reach out to others!

Mary Jane February 28, 2017 at 8:48 am

Happy Birthday, Susan!
I’m grateful that you have led the way to using the internet to
proclaim God’s goodness and provident care in creative and meaningful ways! You are an inspiration and you blog is very helpful and encouraging.
Keep growing!
Mary Jane

Michele Gatts February 28, 2017 at 8:52 am

Happy birthday, Sister! Enjoy your newsletter!

Marika Donders February 28, 2017 at 9:05 am

Happy Birthday Sr. Susan! By the way, this is one of the few email lists I belong to where I read EVERY email as it comes in 🙂 There is always a nugget of information that I needed to hear or be reminded of.
A blesses Lent to you and your community.

Gerianne Dobmeier February 28, 2017 at 10:41 am

Happy birthday, Sr. Susan! We hope your birthday is filled with blessings.

We are blessed with your Catholic e-news notifications each day. They are a great resource for posting on our social media accounts.

Treat yourself to some delicious food on your “Fat Tuesday” birthday!
May our Lenten journey bring us even closer to our dear Lord, Jesus Christ.

Sr Cora February 28, 2017 at 11:26 am

Blessings to you, Sr. Susan on your Birthday – a day to celebrate life!
I would like to thank you for spending your precious hours in sharing with us your expertise in the media world to make of us, of me a better evangelizer through the digital technology. Yes, it is our mission field and the harvest is ready each day, the laborers are in training each day, too. Thanks for being a mentor. Your ministry is touching lives and platforms that grow and how! Blessings of grace and health!

I manage our salesiansisterscanada.ca website and it needs a lot of tweaks, i know. Am learning.
God bless you and your team.
sr Cora

Louise Alff February 28, 2017 at 11:34 am

I always enjoy your newsletter. Wow, I am not as involved in social media as I could, I certainly see the value of it, in evangelizing. May you have a happy birthday. Celebrating it on Ash Wednesday is a bit of a downer. I would push it up a day.

Cindee Case February 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Happy Birthday Eve!
Thanks for your continued good ideas, and the walk down memory lane today (I used to love the smell of mimeographs in grade school, even when they were tests! Today’s kids will never know it.)

Caroline Cerveny February 28, 2017 at 7:11 pm

What a wonderful day! Wishing you many blessings on this special birthday!

Michael Brough March 1, 2017 at 11:27 am

Happy Birthday and many blessings for Lent! Thank your for your ministry and your witness. Peace.

Dave Byers March 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Happy (late) birthday, Susan! It was a privilege sharing the journey with you for many of those years. You’ll be happy to know that our large urban and very traditional parish is slowly and painfully moving toward the creation of a Communications Office. And I’ve been spending a great deal of time editing and updating all the content on our website in preparation for transitioning to a new provider, eCatholic. So the Spirit is a-movin’.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND March 14, 2017 at 5:52 pm

Thank you all for your good wishes.

Dave, if you are working with eCatholic, check out the Bethany template. I worked on that design.

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