Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Respect for Creation


Recently America online magazine highlighted Pope Francis’s Pentecost Sunday homily, in St Peter’s Basilica – Pope’s Pentecost Homily.

For me the key points of this homily are:

  • the world needs men and women who are filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit: he guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23).
  • At first the disciples were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday.  Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, and the Redeemer of mankind, of history and of the world.
  • The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth.
  • Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15)
  • The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).

As I reflect on these points, I see a wonderful opportunity for parents and catechists to lead their students and families in being a Digital Disciple. How? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take a photo of how you are caring for creation – perhaps your garden, caring for your family or brothers and sisters, or any other expression of care. Post it on your Facebook page, Instagram, or Twitter with a short reflection.


A reflection –

How exciting!  Learn more about Grow Pittsburgh, an urban agriculture nonprofit. It brings the garden and cooking into the classroom with 72 different available lesson plans. Children together are learning how to cultivate their gardens.  Could be a summer program for our parish catechetical families.

  • Find a meaningful quote about overcoming fear and share it on your Facebook page or Tweet it to your friends.


  • Create a 30-second video using Animoto that has a theme that focuses on one fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).

If you have additional suggestions for being a Digital Disciple during this time following the feast of Pentecost, we would love to hear your story.


As I read Tim Elmore’s blog post “Technology is not the enemy as long as we redeem it” I resonated with a comment he made…

Technology isn’t going away—so we’re going to have to find ways to redeem it.

So, let’s ask the question – What skill sets of our youth can we develop so that they become digital disciples who meaningfully share faith with their technology skills?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to redeem technology.  Here are suggestions that I offer you to begin the conversation.

  • For Kinder thru Grade 3: At the beginning of the year, invite your parents to follow the @SaintOfTheDay Twitter account. Encourage your students, at least once during the week, to ask their parents, what the saint of the day is and to have their parents share the story of the saint with their son or daughter.  Why do this?  Children will observe their parents finding online information that they will be able to share with them and share what they learn that day with their child.
  • Grades 4 – 6: Using your iPhone or Tablet, go to @SaintOfTheDay and read the saint reflection for the day.  Invite your students to write a Tweet message (Refer to – What is a Twitter Tweet?) which will share what they learned about the saint of the day.  A Tweet example – April 24 who is the saint nicknamed the “poor man’s lawyer”? (Note: This tweet is only 60 characters).
  • Grades 7 & 8: Form teams and assign each team to a designated week of the class sessions. Invite the teams to review the @SaintOfTheDay tweets that are available during that week.  Ask the students to write one or two tweets that will communicate what they have learned about a few of the saints from that week. To be in a form where fellow students will reply with the saints name.

For example – Week of April 19-25: (Tweet #1) He was a theologian, archbishop and opposed the slave trade – Who is he? (72 characters) and (Tweet #2) Once buried in Gniezno cathedral (Poland) his relics were moved to St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Who is he? (108 characters)

Answer #1 – St. Anselm; Answer #2 – St. Adalbert of Prague

How are you considering bringing your children and families to become a digital disciple?


As the digital world continues to surround us, how do we know if we are ready to adapt to this ever changing world? Here are 10 simple points to keep in mind:

  1. You embrace technology! New tools, new media of various types, you take time to explore and learn what is available. You are not afraid to try!
  2. Digital Citizenship is important to you. You model it in your everyday digital world. You encourage others to be responsible digital citizens.
  3. Digital Discipleship means that you are willing to share your faith with others online via various social media tools.
  4. You are a partner and collaborator with others across the world. You are aware of how social media tools are utilized to bring people together to share projects and faith with one another. These colleagues are also available to assist you when needed.
  5. You are aware that this digital world is a new culture, language, and involves learning new skills. You take time to learn new trends and understand how they can be integrated into the faith community.
  6. You find time to learn on an ongoing basis, participating in webinars, attending conferences, searching You Tube or Google for what you need to know, and more!
  7. Your network of friends are colleagues you may see every day as well as your online friends. You relish the day your online friends will meet you F2F. You’ve learned that social networking connects you with new and lasting friendships. You know that online community is possible!
  8. The term PLN – Personal Learning Network is real for you. You have cultivated a group of friends (both online and offline) who are there to coach, mentor, and challenge you.  When you have tech problems, your PLN is available to help you think outside the box!
  9. When you are working with students, they know you are awesome! You engage them in learning and sharing their faith in creative digital ways that often surprise them.
  10. Your students, parents, or others follow your blog or Twitter feed or any of your other social media options (e.g., Pinterest, etc.). Your students know that they can find helpful tips and resources in your comments.
…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

I was reading Laura DeVaney’s article “How 3 districts empower teachers as tech leaders” and the following comments that Laura shares in the article stood out for me:

“The importance of digital learning environments–it’s critical,” Grier said. “You can create the environment but you have to have a high-quality teacher who is trained and who knows how to make the most out of that environment.”

“The classroom environment has changed dramatically,” Jones said. “How do we support teachers as they go to scale? Help them get the necessary professional development and help them ‘see’ a new classroom where they work with students who want to have a voice in their learning.”

“We’re asking teachers to be more vulnerable and trust their students more than they have,” said Wirt, addressing the need to create a shift where students and teachers use digital tools and resources and collaborate more. “How do you create the culture and conditions where teachers feel confident to take risks and experiment in that environment?”

As the daily classrooms transform around us (even slowly), what is happening in this learning environment will affect us! I often wonder, how are we getting ready to manage this changing environment with our catechists, religion teachers, various administrators, and more?

It is time to ask ourselves a variety of questions?

  • As a DRE, PCL, Youth Minister, or any type of ministry leader – Are you aware of what is happening in the schools that are in your neighborhood in the area of technology?
  • Are you engaged in professional development of any kind to learn more about what is happening in the educational technology world?
  • Is your parish ready to adapt mobile tools in the learning process? Why? A high percentage of your youth and parents are carrying and using a smart phone or tablet with them.
  • What plans do we have as leader to develop and train those who join us in our ministries, volunteering their valuable time, to become a Digital Disciple?

We are in a time of pioneering and exploring new learning environments.  What stories do we have to tell about our successes?  What’s working?  What’s not working?  The digital world is NOT going to go away!  It is transforming how we interact with one another, how we learn, how we access information on a daily basis.

So, what will we do with the ever evolving digital world to enhance faith formation at all levels?

I’d love to hear from you!

During this wonderful season of Lent, we are challenging ourselves to any of the following: 40 Things to Give Up for Lent: The List.

These are all wonderful opportunities to develop our Spiritual Selves! And this wonderful season of Lent is a wonderful reminder that it is important to develop our spiritual selves.

Yet, another side to our Lenten practices could be to take time to become more comfortable with our digital skills.  Why? In this 21st century, being a Digital Disciple is very much needed in the ever evolving digital culture that surrounds us. The challenge of being a Digital Disciple is to have the digital skills so that we can communicate and create a message with digital tools, manage the business side of our ministries, or engage our learners of all ages in learning more about their faith via digital experiences.

In the ministry that I am engaged in – training others via Digital Discipleship Boot Camp – I’ve learned that many who participate in our DDBC training often lack the basic technology skills to really be successful in today’s digital world. So, I often wonder – What can I suggest to others that may be FREE or reasonably priced, and is a good learning product?

Recently at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC) I discovered the Custom Guide group in the Exhibit Hall..  What immediately caught my eye at the booth was their FREE Cheat Sheets for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more.

If you want to learn more about these tools, you can easily download FREE Cheat Sheets at their website  or order high quality laminated cheat sheets for your parish staff, catechists, or parish volunteers.


More importantly, if you are looking for hands-on experience with engaging, interactive software simulations for Microsoft Office, SharePoint, and more I encourage you to explore the CustomGuide Interactive Training at Each tutorial covers a single topic, so you get quick answers to your “how-to” questions. CustomGuide Interactive Training is accessible from your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone—making it possible for you to learn wherever you train best. Their motto is Learn by doing, not watching. “More importantly, it is reasonably priced so that your budget is maintained.

I love the guides, as I keep them at the side of my office computer.  When I need help, I quickly look at the guide and find what I need!

For example, I have forgotten how to insert a screenshot into my Word document.  Under “Drawing and Graphics” I locate the following –

To Insert a Screenshot: Click the Insert tab on the Ribbon and click the Screenshot button in the Illustrations group. Select an available window from the list, or select the Screen Clipping option to take a screen clip.

I easily add the screenshot to my document, and continue writing and creating the document that I am working on.

Overall, I have discovered that Digital Discipleship Boot Camp (DDBC) participants who come with strong skills in using programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are able to apply these skills to their boot camp experience.

If you would like to engage more in “hands on” learning experiences for learning more about integrating technology into your ministry, then come to the DDBC website to check out the summer schedule.  We’d love to welcome you!




Pope Francis recently via Google Hangouts met  students with disabilities and special needs from Spain, India, Brazil and the U.S., who shared how technology is helping them study, play and communicate.  The Pope also said he is a “dinosaur” when it comes to technology.

Perhaps the “dinosaur” image is one that many of us identify with.  Yet the students who met with the Pope eagerly shared with him how technology is part of their lives!  Teachers around the world are learning and meaningfully implementing the use of technology in their classrooms.

We are in teaching ministries today that are radically shifting in methodology all around us.  The daily classroom is being revolutionized with digital tools in ways that today’s students are comfortable with and adapt too quickly.

One methodology concept that began with a simple observation: students need their teachers present to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don’t need their teacher present to listen to a lecture or review content.  Today this method is called the “flipped classroom.”

To learn more about the flipped classroom, I’ve been following blog postings, observed a high school classroom and interviewed the religion teachers using the flipped classroom method, and recently while attending the Florida Educational Technology Conference attended these two sessions – Flirting with iFlipping (Aubrey Harrison) and Instructional Flipping into Practice (Mark Deschaine).

As I reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned about the “flipped classroom”, this is what I’ve learned:

  • There is really no ONE way to flip a learning experience.
  • The more you are comfortable with technology, the easier it is for you to flip your classroom.
  • Be conscious of how your video appeals to those watching it.
  • Learning activities need to be interesting when your students return to your class.
  • Ask yourself: Is what I am doing – video and/or activities – engaging?
  • If you are a “newbie” moving to a flipped classroom style, have this experience first by yourself! Find a colleague who has flipped their classroom and observe and learn from them.
  • Think critically about what you are doing.
  • How you think about teaching, determines how you will integrate technology in what you do!
  • Where you are able, collaborate with others!

I especially appreciate a comment made by Mark Deschaine – This technology revolution has a huge challenge for us!

Why is it challenging?

  • Many of us are dinosaurs trying to adapt to an ever evolving digital culture, language, and learn new skills.
  • Time commitment – Ask yourself – Are you taking time to learn the basics so that you can adapt gradually your methodology to fit the needs of those you minister to? Change happens gradually, not overnight!
  • Competence development – Are you learning the basic skills you need, and choosing to be a lifelong learner to increase the development of your skills? It is impossible today to stand still and learn only ONE thing. A few months later, the technology has changed and you learn or lose it!
  • Class redesign – Will we use the methods that worked for our generation or will we listen to instructional designers (educational technology specialists), tech specialists, multi-media experts, peers, and others who are exploring and mentoring others? We need to redesign HOW we teach the faith today, so that learning objectives are accomplished via pedagogical methods, not the educational technology tool.
  • Teaching/Learning experience – How are catechists and ministers supported during this time of adapting to a new learning/teaching culture? Are we simply teaching technology tools? Or, are we engaging those who are adapting to the digital world to form others in their faith effectively, with better learning outcomes, and increased satisfaction?  What is the built in support?
  • Reflection: Are we taking the time to reflect with one another so that we examine newly implemented teaching strategies, consider student feedback, discuss and share results with peers?

Additional Resources:

Book: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day

Blog Post: Why is Adoption of Educational Technology So Challenging?… ‘It’s Complicated’

If you are flipping your classroom, come and share your story here.


Inspirational Moments


One of the reasons I go to the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), is to meet folks who will inspire me to learn new things.  Recently I was reminded how simple conversations with others are also inspirational.

To my wonderful surprise, a new Digital Disciple Boot Camp (DDBC) participant shared this with me:

Hi, Sr. Caroline – I just had to drop you a quick note and tell you about what I did tonight during a class I was teaching as a result of our conversation. 

I was teaching a group class that combined three 6th grade RE classes.  I had one class waiting for the other 2 classes to arrive so I asked how many had a smart phone with them – all hands shoot up – great, I say, please look up the word “covenant” – hands start flying, voices speaking into Siri – first one that found something was about a movie – nope – next one – a good lay dictionary definition – nope – something more religious – sure enough someone finds the “Biblical” definition – perfect- screen shot so you can read it to the rest when they come. 

It was a perfect use of technology and useful as well.  Thanks for inspiring me today.

Thank you Deb Ryan, Assistant Director of Religious Education, St. Francis of Assisi Church for sharing your story with me.  I trust that you will continue to encounter many others during DDBC who will continue to inspire you.

My wish in this ever evolving 2015 year is that each of you will be inspired by others who are involved in Digital Catechesis.  We are each pioneers, trying to figure out what is possible and what works!

I look forward to sharing FETC stories with my readers over the next couple of weeks.  Since I am an introvert, it takes time to sift through the mass of information that I was exposed to at FETC.  As you visit this space, I will share with you what and who inspired me to continue to be a Digital Disciple.

Of course, come and share your stories with ACyberPilgrim as well!

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.    – Mother Teresa

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