What if you could have access to 2,000-plus years of Church documents at one website? What if you could search those works with streamlined precision that would eliminate all extraneous hits?
Thanks to retired Franciscan University of Steubenville professor Doug Lowry that vision is becoming a reality. Lowry is the creator of CatholicFind.com, a website that includes the writings of John Paul II, all the documents of Vatican II, the collected works of G.K. Chesterton, and many other treasures.
At age 72, Lowry says that this computer software project has been a lifetime labor of love that has combined two of his passions: computers and the Catholic faith.
Search Above All Searches
Since the 1960s, the former business and marketing professor has had an interest in computer programming. Lowry, who entered the Church in 1993 after serving as an ordained Presbyterian minister for close to 30 years, was instrumental in developing computer Bibles and searchable Bible software beginning in the 1980s.
It was during that time that Lowry formed his own company, Marpex Inc., which creates and licenses computer software. Much of the work has focused on creating bigger and better search engines.
“Back in November 1984 I stumbled into the world of search engines. I was intrigued with a very tidy, compressed way of representing in a computer the presence or absence of things,” explains Lowry, who retired from teaching in 2004.
From a practical standpoint, he saw his MBA students at Franciscan University becoming very frustrated while researching topics on the Internet.
“I looked at what the search engines on the Internet were doing and was horrified. They were loading people down with what are called ‘false hits’ — irrelevant stuff, things that they did not ask for. To me, the obvious solution was to let the computer do the digging through the garbage and present only the good, meaningful results.”
So he created MarpX, a patented search engine tool that efficiently organizes text searches.
Millions of Words and Counting
Lowry says that filtering tool was one of the keys to creating CatholicFind. He wants anyone who seeks to learn or discover what the Church teaches on a particular matter to easily find what they are looking for.
Stephen Miletic, a professor of Scripture at Franciscan University, has followed Lowry’s computer work for more than 10 years and is excited about CatholicFind.com.
“A tool that searches over vast bodies of literature and yields pinpoint results is worth its weight in gold,” he says. “No more plowing through hundreds of useless results.”
A few years ago Miletic introduced an earlier version of CatholicFind to his students.
“Once they learned how precise they could make their searches, when compared to search engines they had previously used, they began to see real value in this new development,” he says.
Lowry is looking to add more Church documents and writings to his website and is issuing a call to action for anyone who wants to contribute to this work in progress: He is looking for solid Catholic documents in the right computer text format.
“You provide the right documents in the right format, and we will add them to this site,” Lowry states on his website.
In addition to adding more content to CatholicFind, the retired professor hopes to be able to cross search all the documents found on the website. Lowry hopes to have that capability up and running by early 2011. He adds, though, that in the world of computer software nothing can be certain.
His work with the searchable clearinghouse of Catholic thought and writing marches on.
“I am not out to get rich here,” he says. “I simply want to share the riches and traditions that I have come to know and love in my own life.”
Eddie O’Neill writes
from Green Bay, Wisconsin.