Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Today we are surrounded by digital information that is created by a variety of organizations and individuals.  In a matter of seconds a search finds thousands of possible resources related to the topic we are searching for.

As mobile tools, become an integral part of our daily lives and the ability to find out almost anything if we have Internet access, causes me to ask – am I able to find the best Catholic information online or will I also find “fake” information related to my faith?

If you are engaged in any of the following tasks, you will need to find the best possible Catholic information that resides on the Internet:

  • A student who has been assigned the task of explaining the History of the Sacrament of Baptism or any topic to be researched!
  • RCIA catechist who will be explaining the history of Baptism to RCIA candidates
  • A catechist who is involved with Parents who will be baptizing their child and preparing a parent lesson.
  • A child, teenager, or adult curious about the History of the Sacrament of Baptism

Steps to Review Internet Articles

To begin, you are invited to sit down at your computer and go to the “Google” website.  Begin your search with the phrase“Sacrament of Baptism.” A variety of options are usually presented…

I’m delighted to see “Sacrament of Baptism History” as an option. Choose this topic or you can just type in the Google search field “Sacrament of Baptism History” as you begin your search.

 

As you see in a few seconds’ numerous articles are located for you. Your next task is to figure out what are the “best” articles related to the topic of your search.  Normally, the first 20 articles are the options you want to begin with.  For this article, we’ll work with the first six articles asking three simple questions:

  1. Is this a Catholic website? If yes, is it sponsored by the Vatican, the USCCB, a Diocese, a Parish, a Catholic Publisher, a Catholic University, or by an individual who is writing this article.
  2. What do you know about the writer? Name, who do they represent – Vatican, Diocese, Parish, Catholic Publisher, Catholic University – Theology Department, Self? What degrees do they have? Who are they associated with?
  3. Is the information current, dated or biased?

Answering the Questions

It is usually helpful to create a table that identifies – Article – Organization/Individual – Writer Info – Date of Article. As I ask the three questions, here is what I learn about each webpage:

Article Catholic Org or Indv Writer Info Date
Catechism of Catholic Church – Baptism Vatican Vatican 1993
Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation Catholic Education Resource Center Fr. John Hardon, SJ – Biography – http://www.hardonsj.org/biography/ The Catholic Faith 4, no. 4 (July/August 1998): 5-11.
Sacrament of Baptism Catholic Doors Jonn Miller No Date Listed
History of Baptism – Wikipedia Wikipedia Wikipedia Contributors See “Cite this Page
Baptism Catholic Encyclopedia – New Advent This article was transcribed for New Advent by Charles Sweeney, S.J. 1907
The Sacrament of Baptism Holy Trinity Catholic Church Holy Trinity Catholic Church – Probably prepared and written by a staff member No Date Listed

 

Deciding What to Read and Study

Just asking these three questions, and after identifying the responses to the questions I would choose three articles to begin my research and learning.

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Baptism:  This is a Vatican sponsored article and is part of the newest Catechism.  A good resource to study.

The Holy Trinity parish article: Why?  It is written for a parish audience to quickly and simply explain to them information about the Sacrament. After reading the Catechism article, I would be comparing the Catechism content with this article to see how this article clearly articulates what has been approved by the Vatican. Despite no date or specific author listed, this is a current Catholic parish in the Shreveport Diocese.  While reading the article, references to the CCC are made which indicates that this is a current article, most likely prepared by a parish staff member.

Baptism – New Advent: Since we are focusing on the History of the Sacrament of Baptism, this article was approved by bishops in 1907.  It would provide an explanation of the sacrament at this historical time.  Since I read the two more current articles, I will be trying to identify what is the same or different between the Catechism Article (1993) and the Catholic Encyclopedia article (1907) regarding the history of the sacrament of Baptism. This article will contextualize for me how the Church understood the Sacrament of Baptism before Vatican II.

An article I would read to understand what seems to be an article that would be more supportive of pre-Vatican II theology is:

Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – Why? This is a resource that is supported by a group in Canada.  Their goal is wonderful – your online source for the best in Catholic faith and culture.  However, as I view the information about the “Executive and Advisory Boards” there are flags for me.  The phrases that cause me to pause are:

  • Professor Emeritus – indicates for me someone who is academically astute, but may have a more traditional mindset that may not support Vatican II theology. These members represent – English and Humanities, School of Education, Christianity & Culture Program, Philosophy, Social and Political Philosophy.
  • Organizations that are known to support Pre-Vatican II Theology: Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ignatius Press, and Catholic Answers.
  • Author “Fr. Hardon, SJ who is known in Catholic circles to be more of a traditionalist who was critical of Vatican II theology.

It is important to know and be aware of both sides of the equation in today’s church.  The audience who arrives on your doorstep comes from a rainbow of theological experience.  As a teacher/learner it is important to respect the rainbow of colors in a parish.  Our call is not to engage our communities in fighting one another regarding who is right and who is wrong.  Our call is to engage our faith communities in a dialogue so that both sides grow in understanding and welcoming one another.

I would not recommend or read the following two articles:

Sacrament of Baptism – Catholic Doors.  Overall the design of this content is not very appealing as it is all text based.  On closer examination to see who is sponsoring the website, I found the following – The Catholic Doors Ministry is owned and managed by Jonn Miller. This ministry is a response to Pope John-Paul II’s appeal that the West is in need of re-evangelization.

There is no additional information about Jonn Miller.  There is this statement – Catholic Doors Ministry operates from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Even after googling “Jonn Miller saskatoon saskatchewan Canada” or “Jonn Miller Catholic Doors Ministry” I did not find any significant information Jonn, specifically a short bio or any additional information about this person.

History of Baptism – Wikipedia.  In general I, do not recommend Wikipedia articles as I will always want to compare and contrast with recognizable other sources the content of their material especially related to faith based articles.  Why?  My personal bias is that a website with faith and theological content needs to be reviewed by theologians (academic or practical) who are recognized for their expertise.  In general, Wikipedia articles are written and edited by those who sign up with Wikipedia.  There is no vetting process to acknowledge that we are receiving good theology in these articles.  And even if approved, by fact that this is a wiki tool, anyone can come and add information at any time that may or may not be accurate.  When I check the “Cite This Page” I notice that the Author is listed as “Wikipedia Contributors.”  I have no idea who these contributors are as they are not listed.  Thus, there is no way to learn more about these authors.

The Challenge of Digital Faith Research

Gone are the days when there are only ONE or TWO resources to read.  Today’s digital world is a library of articles written by a variety of writers who have and do not have a theological background. Our task is to find the best articles to assist us in learning more about our faith.

As I ask questions about my faith – Who is Jesus? Where did he live? What is the Bible? How do I study the Bible online? And many other questions, it is possible to ask Google or any other Search Engine to assist us in learning more about our faith.

Photo by Steve Snodgrass (CC)

However, the task is now on us to locate and find the information that will truly enlighten us!  We need to admit that today we live in a church with a rainbow of theologies: Pre-Vatican II, Vatican II, and Post Vatican II.  This rainbow of theologies is represented in the articles we find on the Internet.

I particpated on February 6, 2017 at a Listening Session where our new Bishop Gregory Parkes, invited parish members to share their insights around three questions.  As I listened to the shared comments representing the 500 persons attending this event, I heard statements that reflected the rainbow of theologies that currently exist in our church.

Because we are simple human beings, we will gravitate towards our personal bias and expect others to believe like us.  It is time to respect and learn from one another.  We all have a bit of the truth that we are invited to learn from one another.

It is not time to “push” our beliefs onto others.  It is time to engage in a conversation or dialogue that allows me to grow in a deeper relationship with Jesus.

As you engage in Internet research to learn more about your faith, come with clear questions you are using to guide you in picking your resources.  Take the time you need to “discern” and “choose” the best articles to read and reflect on that will engage you in becoming a faith-filled Catholic!

Remember it is not what you know about your faith!  It is about knowing and coming to a deeper relationship with Jesus!

Tell A Gospel Story

KidsSpace is a website sponsored by the Toronto Public Library. One of the helpful tools is a way to engage children in telling a story. After I played with the tool, here is a suggestion for you to use in a children’s faith formation class.

The tool to use is Tell-A-Story StoryBuilder.

I would invite children to use this tool at home to retell an assigned Gospel story using the images and creativity of the children. Perhaps this could be the Gospel story for a given Sunday. Once the story is completed and approved by you, it can be used in various ways.

Suggested Steps:

  • Assign a Gospel story to read, for example – The Beatitudes story in Matthew 5: 1-10 (You may want to refer the children to the Superbook Bible for the text or they can use a Bible that is at home.
  • Invite students to use Tell-A-Story StoryBuilder to tell the story using the various tools that are available: backgrounds, characters, etc. They get to choose a setting and characters for the story to make it a unique story that they tell.
  • Once the story is created, tell them to click the [Send] button. A box will appear asking for who they are going to send the story to and for their name and email address. If they are working at home, ask them to invite their parents to view the story before they forward to you. Tell the child that they are to ask their parents to insert a parent email with the child’s name.

beat-1 beat-3

  • Once they have completed sending the story to you, they will see a box that says “SUCCESS! The card…”. Click on OK.

beat-2

  • Check your email

beat-3

  • Once you have a link, click on the link and you will have access to the story. Click on the green arrow in the right-hand corner to page through the story.

beat-4

  • Here is an example of a story for you. Click here.

Would love to hear your stories of how you may be engaging your children/youth in retelling the Gospel stories that so gift our daily lives. Blessings all!

twitter-instagram

We live in the midst of an evolving Digital Culture with its own language and skills.  It’s almost like going to a foreign land where we may often feel like a “stranger.”  So, when others begin to say that they are using Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Canva we look back at them with a blank look.  Often we do not know what these tools are nor do we know how to use them.

Today, learning how to use any of these tools has become very simple.  Your 18-year-old (or younger) grandchild, nephew, niece or neighbor use these tools on a regular basis.  And if they don’t, go to Google and/or YouTube and search for – “Name of Tool” Tutorial – for example: Twitter Tutorial, or Instagram Tutorial, etc. Normally, in a matter of 10 minutes you will be able to find and view one video that will introduce the tool to you.

Then if you wonder how other Catholics are using these tools, Go to GOOGLE and search for phrases like “Catholic Twitter,” “Catholic Pinterest,” or “Catholic Instagram”.  Just go and explore to see what other Catholics are creating with their accounts.

Then stop for a moment and ask yourself, what do you want to do with your <Name of Account> so that you are becoming an everyday Digital Disciple? Once you have your goal figured out!  Go and “Tweet” or “share life with pictures” to share the gift of you and of your faith with others.  (Remember the 70/30 Rule!)  You are not out to bombard others with religious messages.  Your goal is to share who you are with others in a wholesome way that also exhibits that you are able to share your faith with others using digital tools.  And that means that you are developing your skills to be a Digital Disciple.

Here are some examples of some of the Catholics (individuals or groups) that I follow.

Twitter

Pope Francis – https://twitter.com/Pontifex or @Pontifex

Father Dave Dwyer, CSP – https://twitter.com/FatherDaveDwyer or @FatherDaveDwyer

Becky Eldridge – https://twitter.com/beldredge98 or @beldredge98

Cara Stolarczyk – https://twitter.com/CaraStolarczyk or @CaraStolarczyk

Instagram

James Martin, SJ – https://www.instagram.com/jamesmartinsj/

Jeff Young (Catholic Foodie) – https://www.instagram.com/catholicfoodie/

Catholic Teen Posts – https://www.instagram.com/catholic_teen_posts/?modal=true

LifeTeen – https://www.instagram.com/lifeteen/

Vatican – https://www.instagram.com/vaticansite/?hl=en

Each of these accounts represent a unique style of being a Digital Disciple.  At the personal level, these folks are happy and alive Catholics who share who they are with their friends and family – each with their own style.

Now I invite you to choose one of these accounts (if you haven’t already) and in your simple and unique ways connect with others.  If you are not sure how to find your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn audiences, this blog post Finding Your Audience on Social Media  will guide you.

Before you know it, you will be sharing the delightful YOU with others.  More importantly, because you believe and have a friendship with Jesus, this will be noticed by those who friend, follow, or connect with you using any of these digital tools. The following graphic is from my Facebook account.  As I read the comments “Thank you Caroline, I’m needing your words of wisdom.” “This is just what I needed this morning.” And “Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  You always make a difference.”

I feel blessed to be able to share my hopes, dreams, and beliefs with my digital friends.  It does make a difference!

difficultroards

Advent Digital Discipleship

So, it’s Advent! And you are wondering how to involve your family, your students, your parish members, or your friends in the Advent season!  Below are three videos about Advent.  Here are a few suggestions for how you may want to use them during the first two weeks of Advent:

Text the link with a brief message – For example: Want to learn more about Advent, check this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S02KOlw7dlA

Facebook Page – Add the link.  Once the video is populated in your FB message, delete the URL and add a short message – For example – for Advent in Two Minutes: What is the relationship between Advent and Christmas? Check out Busted Halo’s two-minute video that describes why we celebrate Advent and wait to celebrate Christmas. What is Advent for you?

Twitter Message –  Why do we celebrate Advent? View this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S02KOlw7dlA

Advent in Two Minutes

What Is Advent? Gangnam Style

You Don’t Know Jack … about Advent

Would love to hear about how you are planning on being an Advent Digital Disciple!  You are invited to share your story.  Click “Leave a Comment” below.

facebook-2

Why Facebook?  Some basic stats highlight why this tool can be a fruitful opportunity for everyday evangelization.

1.09 billion people log onto Facebook daily (DAU) – March 2016, which represents a 16% increase year over year. (Source: Facebook as 4/27/16)    

Worldwide, over 1 Billion registered Facebook users.  (Source: April 2016 Facebook) What this means for you: In case you had any lingering doubts, statistically, Facebook is too big to ignore. Facebook is here for the long haul.  How it is used for the sake of the Gospel is up to us.

Age 25 to 34, at 29.7% of users, is the most common age demographic.  (Source: Emarketer 2012) In religious terms, Facebook can be considered as a means to contact young adults a prime target demographic for today’s church. You have a chance to engage these key Millennials on Facebook.

Facebook users are 76% female and 66% male.  (Source: Brandwatch) The Takeaway: Since this isn’t a large statistical difference, you should be able to effectively reach both genders on Facebook. Both genders present an evangelizing ministerial opportunity.

Average time spent per Facebook visit is 20 minutes.  (Source: Infodocket) What this means for you: You have a short time period to make your impression, so use it wisely with relevant, interesting and unique posts to get the most return on your efforts.

What can you do to evangelize?  First – Be yourself!  A disciple who prays, loves their faith, cares about their family and friends, and is comfortable with communicating with others using their personal Facebook account.  That’s right – Today we are ALL called to be Digital Disciples!

If you need to learn how to use Facebook, plenty of resources exist to assist you.  Just search for “Facebook Tutorial” using Google or YouTube.

Various options for you personally –consider a 70/30 or 60/40 or 50/50 rule.  That is 70% of your posts are your personal posts about your job, your sporting events, your children, or whatever is your everyday experience that exhibit a happy, joyful, thoughtful disciple; 30% of your posts are intentional posts are something about your faith.  You may also wish a 60% or 50% ratio of sharing.  It’s your choice!

Here are some simple suggestions for you using Facebook:

  1. Share your personal experience of participating in your parish. A photo and brief comment is often interesting to your FB friends.
  2. Check your parish or diocesan FB page. Surprisingly we may discover a “post” that is interesting to others.  Click on the “Share” button and share it either on your wall or share directly with a family member or friend.
  3. Create or Follow a curated list of online resources that provide interesting Catholic faith content that you can share on your FB page. Examples of websites you may want to be aware of:
    1. Busted Halo – a unique media resource that utilizes a relevant and accessible voice to help people understand the Catholic faith, put it into practice in their everyday lives, and share it with others.
    2. Word On Fire – a global media apostolate to draw others into – or back to – the Catholic faith.
    3. Catholic News Agency –  CNA strives to provide free, up-to-the-minute news affecting the Universal Church, giving particular emphasis to the words of the Holy Father and happenings of the Holy See, to any person with access to the internet.
    4. Other websites that interest you – Catholic News, The Jesuit Post and more.

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how you could be an everyday Digital Disciple.

discipleship

Sherry Weddell in Forming Intentional Disciples says, “We must be convinced that all the baptized – unless they die early or are incapable of making such a decision – will eventually be called to make a personal choice to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ in the midst of his Church.” (pg. 70)

In addition, Sherry highlights for us the stages of Intentional Discipleship: Trust, Curiosity, Openness, Seeking, and Intentional Discipleship. We will explore later how these are also steps to Digital Discipleship.

The wonderful background materials related to Evangelization and Discipleship offer us helpful suggestions for evangelization and discipleship today.  In general, most of these materials do not highlight how being a Digital Disciple stands as an essential element at the heart of ministry. The goal of the Digital Discipleship Series is to encourage us in digital discipleship and evangelization efforts.  We no longer have an either/or option.  We are now called to integrate the apostolic opportunity of the digital world, so that we may use it effectively in our everyday efforts to incarnate the Gospel message.

Most of us are Disciples!  Yet, when we are asked if we do anything with technology, normally we frown and raise our eyebrows when the question is asked.  After all – Discipleship is about being “real” with others.  Sharing our faith with them.  Of course, in the minds of many – this means in a face-to-face opportunity. Today digital tools/options expand a deeper challenge and opportunity for us to share our faith with others via digital tools.

Yet in today’s Digital World, where we now have access to a variety of digital communication tools, it is time to use these tools to be Digital Disciples in order to evangelize our family and friends and our church.

When I first saw Sherry Weddell’s stages of Intentional Discipleship, I immediately saw the connection between the steps of Digital Discipleship:

Trust – Trust that we can enhance the sharing of our faith with others in digital ways.

Curiosity – Numerous digital tools are familiar to us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and more.  Our curiosity and even our digital anxiety must lead us to explore how we can use these tools to communicate both the power/love of our faith and also our love for Jesus to others.

Openness – Our personal capacity to entertain different and often non-customary digital ideas offer amazing apostolic opportunities.

Seeking – As seekers we continue to search with Jesus new ways to be a disciple in a 21st Century Digital World.

Intentional Digital Discipleship – Our passion to share our faith becomes a both/and experience.  We relish being able to spend face-to-face time with others.  While at the same time I/We can use digital means like Facebook, Twitter, and more to enhance our faith and love of Jesus to others.

As we engage in Digital Discipleship, I reflect on a comment that Archbishop Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications made in 2014 during an interview with Columbia Editor Alton J. Pelowski:

In other words, the challenge for the Church today is not to use the Internet to evangelize, but to evangelize from within this digital milieu.

The mission of the Church is always the same: We are invited to announce the Gospel to the men and women of today. This is our point of reference. In being present in such a context, we are not simply “bombing” the social networks with religious messages. No, what we have to do is give witness – personal witness. Pope Francis said very clearly to the young people in Assisi last year (citing St. Francis): “Always preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words!”

Me! Build a Website?

WELCOME TO OUR GUEST BLOGGER, THERESA SALAZAR!

Website Home Page

Website Home Page

I really needed to update my faith formation program! No, not the textbooks, catechist materials, or catechetical methods. These were current. I needed to update our internet presence, or rather our non-existent internet presence. We had no website. Yes, I can understand your gasp of utter shock. You are probably saying, “What century do you live in!”

Actually, I was born before the internet was invented. My children taught me how to use the computer and after listening to warnings about the “dangers” of the internet, I learned how to cautiously search for information, documents and websites. Soon it became second nature to go to the internet for all types of information and communication. So why didn’t our faith formation program have a website?

When I was hired as Director of Religious Education eleven years ago only the secretary had computer skills. That soon changed and as a result all our record keeping, forms and some communication became computerized. We were humming along with e-mail, internet access, and had Wi-Fi available for our catechists in the building. I was happy, until. . . . .

A few months ago I was invited to attend an on-line class about using social media to spread the good news of the Gospel. I had never participated in an on-line class and thought this would be a good way to update my computer skills. I signed up for the Digital Discipleship Boot Camp   which was a four-month class that met online every two weeks. We covered the importance about using the internet to evangelize and communicate using the different social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and many others, the usefulness of wikis, blogs, websites and cloud based tools, and the different websites that have free pictures and tools available. As I was learning all this it struck me that our own program did not have a website. But, what could I do? I had heard that websites were complicated and expensive to build.

One of the classes had talked about websites that allow you to build for free and were simple to use. I decided to look at these websites and see what I could do. I explored two websites, WordPress and Wix. I found that Wix.com was easier than WordPress. Wix was a drag and drop type program similar to Publisher or PowerPoint.

I signed up for the free website at Wix and chose a template for my homepage. As I worked with it, I didn’t like how my homepage was turning out, so I changed the template. From there I learned how to add titles, more pages, subpages, pictures, documents and calendars. I was amazed at the things I could do, and there is so much more that I haven’t even tried. The more I did the more I wanted to do. For example, I posted all the information and requirements that I thought were needed about our First Communion program. Then I thought it would be convenient for our parishioners to have the registration forms available, so I learned how to add those as PDF’s. Of course we always give out a calendar when parents register their children, so why not put that on the website as well? Now I’m thinking it would be great if we had a way that parents could pay the registration fee with a credit card, and I should have a page for quick updates and reminders or use a Twitter account for that. I could put a link on my site to my Twitter account (@therese_salazar). The ideas and possibilities are endless!

I am just beginning my website presence. I’m just learning, but if I can do it, anyone can do it. Remember, I was born before the computer existed. I was born when television was still black and white, and here I am creating a website! Is my website awesome? Is it stunning?

No, right now it is basic, very basic. But for me, that is more than what we had a few months ago. With this site our Faith Formation program will be adding a much-needed and updated method of reaching out to and communicating with our parishioners. As time goes by I hope to make it better and more interactive. Am I happy now? Yes. I am happy because we are able to reach out to the new generation and work with them in the way they know and understand. Am I satisfied? No. I know that this is just the beginning and I still have a lot more learning and work to do.

In the meantime, check out my website. I have not gotten a domain name or linked my website to our parish website because our pastor wants to update the parish website and has asked me to wait until that happens. But, until then my website can be found at: www.theresesalazar777.wix.com/mysite-2

Therese L. Salazar,MA

Director of Religious Education

Our Lady of Belen Church

Belen, New Mexico

Tag Cloud