Transforming Parish Communications

 Growing the Church Through New Media

By Scot Landry

Our Sunday Visitor, 2013

200 pages, $19.95

To order: osv.com

 

Scot Landry says in his introduction, “My goal for this book is that everyone who reads it at the parish level will grow in the passion to adopt the new media as a central tool of outreach and evangelization.”

Landry’s book is structured around three central questions:

1. Why must the Church be present in the new media to fulfill its function?

2. How can the Church best implement the new-media evangelization without overburdening the very busy parish priests and parish staff members?

3. What are the essential things parishes need to know to begin utilizing digital media effectively?

Scot Landry is the Marshal McLuhan of the New Evangelization in this still-new century. McLuhan, as you may recall, propagated the idea “The media is the message”; to spread the Good News, the new media act as invaluable tools both locally in the parish and throughout the world through the Internet, Landry says.

Landry is a Catholic executive who has led numerous organizations, including Catholic Voices USA and the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic conferences. He is the former cabinet secretary of Catholic media at the Archdiocese of Boston. A graduate of Harvard Business School, he lives in Boston with his wife and three children.

Perhaps readers can best get an idea of Landry’s style with this quote from Chapter 4: “Pastors, priests and parish staff by themselves can only reach a small fraction of those lost to the Church. As parishes ... we can sometimes treat parish staff as ‘employees’ whose outreach we support with parish collections. Stated another way, we can look at them as parish staff instead of as disciples. Our parish staff members certainly need to model and lead the work of the entire parish ... but it is up to every one of us to do the work of inviting people back to Church. When the entire community is mobilized, we can reach thousands of our neighbors and eventually even millions, and friends lost from the Church, due to the reach of our social networks.”

In this very useful book, Landry lays out in 10 succinct chapters how a typical Catholic parish in the U.S. (and there are thousands of them) can use modern technology not only to reach its parishioners on a daily basis and act as a bulletin board of weekly activities (goodbye paper bulletins), but also to help grow the Church, inside and outside the parish.

Certainly Pope St. John Paul II set a new practice with his use of audiences in Rome and more than 200 visits to countries throughout the world — he was a great “spreader” of the Gospel. His instrument was the jet plane; the new instrument is the Internet and all the disparate evangelization tools it makes possible.

The parish is not about bake sales, but about receiving the sacraments, hearing the word of God and receiving good formation.

Then, after Mass on Sundays (and weekdays), parishioners should run out the doors enriched with grace to share the Good News with family, friends and co-workers.

In doing so, they will be following in the footsteps of St. Paul and popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis.

I have only a quibble or two. I wish Landry had written more about the many dozens of Catholic movements approved by the Vatican. Many are doing exciting things in re-energizing adults and attracting young people, and I would like to have heard Landry’s ideas on what role he envisions for these movements in the mission life of the parish.

My friend Blessed John Henry Newman said the only evidence of life is growth. Are your parish and your personal witness showing continuing growth? If not, find inspiration in  this book.

Father C. John McCloskey is a Church historian and research fellow of the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington.