I recently had the first of, I hope, many columns on Catholic online evangelization in the St. Louis Review. I will post the column here for archival purposes, but you can read the column on the Review website as well:
by Jeff Geerling
The status quo is no longer acceptable.
That was the gist of the two keynote talks during this year's Catholic New Media Celebration in Boston. The Catholic Church needs to become a leader in online communications and social media — and it needs to do so now.
Father Robert Reed, director of CatholicTV, an online and broadcast television network, suggested Catholics practice the craft of media production and web development as a skilled craftsman would fabricate a chalice: As the craftsman labors over every detail and creates a work of art, which leads the priest and those present at Mass to ponder the mysterious and divine Presence within, so should we communicate and design our websites so as to allow Christ's love and beauty shine.
There must be a professionalism to our craft. We cannot settle for anything less than the best, most useful, functional and interactive websites and service on the Internet.
There is no reason why the Catholic Church should be seen as lagging behind all other areas of the secular world in digital catechesis. After all, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed, in his Message for the 43rd World Communications Day, that we must all "take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent.'"
Lino Rulli, a Catholic radio broadcaster, suggested that every Catholic involved in online communications and "new media" should be humbly asking, "Are you actually good at what you do?"
Instead of doing something only because we like it, we should consider doing something at which we're adept. Rulli said, "Don't just do something — do it well." We must realize that the work of podcasting, blogging and social publishing is an art that requires skill and hard work.
Rulli concluded his keynote with the statement, "Make it real, and make it relatable." New forms of communication, such as Facebook and Twitter, are more personal than traditional forms. They are more relational, and we should strive to make our evangelization efforts as good online as we do in interpersonal communication. We must remember that the receiver of our message is an individual human person, and we must always speak, write and relate with truth and charity.
If we want to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ on the Internet, we must hone our skills, labor over our medium and our message, relate to our message's recipient and pray for a renewed passion and love for Christ.
As the Director of Web Development in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I hope to assist the many agencies and organizations in the archdiocese in their online communications and evangelization efforts. I welcome your input. Please feel free to send me an e-mail or collaborate with me on the Open Source Catholic Website.
You can read a full summary of the Catholic New Media Conference.