With an increasing demand for varied and readily accessible content, the Catholic Church is moving into the digital age. Catholic apps, tweets, blogs and videos are on the rise, as the Church strives to connect with its younger members.
On Oct. 11, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI commenced the Year of Faith, a time dedicated to catechesis and evangelization. A number of new-media entities surfaced in response. Others, previously in existence, grew stronger.
Chris Stefanick, internationally known Catholic evangelist and youth minister, said he uses YouTube videos, tweets and posts on social media as a way of collecting and sharing inspiring material.
"We are 1 billion of 7 billion in the world," he said. "There’s no excuse for the lack of our presence evangelizing and catechizing online."
In September 2012, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University conducted a poll of Catholics to measure their use of new media. The findings suggest that the Catholic presence online is growing and that using new media is an effective tool for evangelization. The Register has a strong presence online at NCRegister.com, as well as via social media, and is currently developing an app.
There is, however, a healthy apprehension about using new media in the Church.
"The biggest challenge is staying current while remaining eternal," said Ryan Kreager, co-founder of Little iApps. "New technologies are great, but you have to find the right fit. Bad evangelization repackaged on an app or mobile website is just bad evangelization writ small. The technology must, first and foremost, be in service to the truth."
Pope Benedict began tweeting from @Pontifex on Dec. 12, 2012. The trend continues with Pope Francis. He tweets regularly to more than 2.6 million followers. On July 9, he tweeted, "Christians are always full of hope; they should never get discouraged."
One Billion Stories
Seth DeMoor, 28, founder of OneBillionStories.com, started the video-based ministry after graduating from the University of Colorado.
His mission, and the mission of his entire team, is to collect and present stories of the faith in a compelling and quality way. The organization has missionaries around the globe who work together to compile, edit and produce the short videos.
"The world is changing very quickly before our eyes," said DeMoor. "We have to adjust the way we communicate. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to tweet out and post about your faith."
My Year of Faith
"It is a great time for new media in the Church," said Kreager of Little iApps.
"One of the wonderful things about the Catholic Church is our trust in subsidiarity, doing things at the lowest responsible level. This means there are efforts to bring new media into our faith from all levels: the Vatican, dioceses and archdioceses, lay organizations and even individual Catholics."
Kreager and his company work to create mobile applications that support and enhance the mission of the Church. They designed an app specifically for the Year of Faith. The "My Year of Faith" app (http://LittleiApps.com/myof/) delivers a new blog post every day. It also includes an interactive calendar, suggested reading and a daily challenge.
"You have a touchstone for growing in faith every day," said Kreager. "The Year of Faith is all about activity: It is a call to action, and ‘My Year of Faith’ gives you a jumping-off point for that activity."
Flocknote and Radical Life
Every day, more than 100,000 people open their email to find excerpts and explanations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Through a partnership with YouCat, the youth Catechism, Flocknote delivers daily digests of Church teaching. (Sign up to read the Catechism in a year at FlockNote.com/catechism.)
"The Year of Faith is not only a time to renew our own faith, but to remember that there is still work to be done in sharing the faith with others," said Matt Warner, founder of Flocknote and former NCRegister.com blogger.
Warner started Flocknote in 2009 to give the Church a simple way to manage basic yet powerful communication, employing the full force of new-media technology, he said. The Catechism subscription is the biggest list to date.
The Radical Life, Warner’s latest project at TheRadicalLife.org, is a weekly faith digest delivered to subscriber’s emails. "I need a constant reminder that, every day I wake up still breathing, God is calling me to a big, beautiful, meaningful life," he said. "A radical life that requires radical trust, forgiveness and sacrifice."
The Jesuit Post
What do Taylor Swift, the Yankees and Jesuit Bishop Greg O’Kelly have in common? All hold feature spots on TheJesuitPost.org, which was developed in the spring of 2012.
Eric Sundrup, the 32-year-old co-founder, helped recruit nearly 40 other young Jesuits as contributing writers and editors. The writers focus on finding God in everyday life, a known practice in the Society of Jesus.
"We want to create an online space of hospitality where people can engage with an online community and begin looking at faith as something relevant and present in everyday life," said Sundrup.
"If this is to be a Year of Faith, then we need to highlight how pervasive and relevant faith is in our daily lives."
writes from Denver.