Digital Discipleship: Transforming Ministry Through Technology

Posts tagged ‘Information Age’

The Role of the Catechist in the Age of Google & Alternative Facts

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!

This LENT: Develop Your Digital Mind

digitalminds-2

So, we’re in the middle of Lent.  A few weeks ago we were resolving to take care of _____, give up_____, or donate to _____ during this Lenten season.  These actions are all well and good.  But who amongst us even thought about developing our Digital Minds?

Here we are in the 21st century, where technology surrounds us!  For many years, most of us in ministry have kept technology at an arms length from our ministry.  Over time, we made wise decisions and a computer was purchased for our office.  We may even have purchased a laptop so that we have the flexibility to take our work home.  Overall we have gotten comfortable with word processing, email, spreadsheets, and presentation tools. Some of us are very  proficient with these tools, and others may still need to learn how to leverage these tools in order to be effective and efficient.

However, when I speak of a Digital Mind, I am calling attention to a mind that is engaged in the Digital culture, knows how to speak the ever evolving digital language, and has skills that go beyond the basics of being able to use a computer for email, word processing, presentations, and tracking our program finances.

digitalminds-3

This Digital Mind is very comfortable with technology, creatively engaging in using the digital tools for research, online learning, social interaction with others, and more.  This type of person is engaged in exploring how the desktop,  laptop, and now tablets and mobile phones can be an integral part of our ministry lives.

I invite each of you to engage in this conversation with me.  I want to distinguish between the characteristics of a Digital Mind and a Non-Digital Mind.  I am suggesting a list of seven (7) characteristics.  If there are other characteristics that you are aware of, I invite you to participate in this conversation by adding your comment to this blog post.

I would say that you have a Digital Mind, if the following characteristics are evident in your daily ministry:

  1. In a casual conversation with friends, family, or parishioners a question arises that  you are unable to answer, instead of saying that you will get back to them later, you pull out your smart phone or tablet and Google the question. You have an answer within a minute.
  2. Your TO DO list, is on your phone.  In fact, short notes that are your grocery list, and other important things you need to remember are added to your electronic note pad of your mobile tool.
  3. 10 to 15 minutes of your day is spent on FaceBook, casually looking over posts on your parish FB page, or viewing posts from your family, friends, and members of your parish.
  4. In addition, you take 5 or 10 minutes to post a faith-thought on your FB page, or a simple response – click the LIKE button, or comment to other posts. When someone posts on the parish page, that a member of your parish is in the hospital, you are one of the first to offer prayers.  On Sunday, when you see this person in Church, you can engage in a conversation where you are aware that this person has just returned home after a hospital stay.
  5. Instead of killing trees because of the paper you use to distribute a weekly newsletter to your parents, you are comfortable in creating a blog using WordPress or Edublog or any other blog tool for this newsletter.
  6. Your familiarity with Web 2.0 tools has provided you with helpful new ideas to present to your catechists.  You follow Catechesis 2.0 to learn from pastoral technology leaders what tools are available, and how you may use them!  Now many of the student activities are available online, so that others can see the projects and your students are learning how to be a Digital Disciple.  Parents and others can comment and affirm the classwork.
  7. You have a team in the parish who assists you with recording (audio and/or video) your parent sessions, catechist meetings, or other activities so that a podcast or video is available for those who were unable to attend this meeting.

and, where have you exhibited any other characteristic of a Digital mind? If you are not developing your Digital Mind, then you are:

  1. Running to your office library to find the resource you may need to answer the question.  If it is not in your office library, then you are off and running to a library, calling a friend, or just hoping that you find the right resource with the answer.
  2. Many of your notes are on a variety of sizes of paper or notebook.  When you need the note, it is lost, or you’re unable to find your spiral bound tablet, or unable to decipher what you wrote.
  3. You do not believe that FaceBook is a viable way for communicating with your family, friends, or parish community. You avoid it like “the plague.”
  4. Your weekly newsletter:  Of course you use a publishing program to create this wonderful newsletter, email it to your printer, wait a day or two for the UPS package to reach you, distribute to your children, and hope that each child remembers to give it to their parents.
  5. You go to your favorite publisher website, print off a  worksheet, go to the copy machine to make the number of copies that you will need for your students, and distribute to them.  You collect the sheets, and several students have not completed the activity and a few have not returned their worksheet and now you take a few moments to review their work and write comments on their work.  One student “doodled” a cartoon on their worksheet. Next class you return the worksheet and have a conversation with your budding artist!
  6. For those who were unable to attend the parish meetings.  You email each family with a special message about the event, and invite them to meet with you for a special session.  This time, you have 20 families unable to attend the Family First Communion meeting.  As you listen to their stories, you learn that these students are involved in sports and Girl Scouts. Have you thought of doing a webinar with them?

So even in the middle of this Lenten season, it is appropriate to ask – How am I developing my Digital Mind.  Or, do I even want to develop my Digital Mind?

I trust that you see developing your Digital Mind as a wholesome activity, that once developed will provide you with a means to be a Digital Disciple in this ever evolving 21st Century where the New Evangelization is calling us to communicate in new ways, with new tools!

May your stories of HOW you are developing your Digital Mind, be an inspiration for each of us.

Learning Faith in a Digital Age

Have you ever stopped to think about what will be different in catechesis as we become more and more a Digital Culture?

Yes  – reading materials will become more digital.  The recent NEWSWEEK announcement – that they will be ALL DIGITAL beginning January 14, 2013 – is just the tip of the iceberg.  As we ponder what this means for catechesis, lets use our imagination.  I encourage you to add to the conversation with your own insights and options.

newsweek-3

To begin, let’s get ready for the future.  You are the catechist and I will be a Digital Native.  So the Digital Native will use a laptop, tablet or smartphone and the catechist will use paper and pencil.  Let’s describe what can happen in this ever evolving world.  Are you ready?

  • I will immediately Google up-to-date information about my church – you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
  • I will immediately know when I have answered a digital quiz correctly – you have to wait until it’s graded.
  • I will use technology in every aspect of my everyday faith life – following the readings of the day, receiving the Pope’s tweets, following the Vatican YouTube Channel, NCR Online, America.org and more – you will wait a week or two to hear about what’s happening in a published church paper that is losing readership daily.
  • I will create digital posters with photos, images, text and videos – you will still be creating posters with crayons and ink or maybe with butcher paper with check points.
  • I will create prayers, articles and more in a digital format and share these with the world – you will only share yours with the class.
  • I will have 24/7 access to information about my faith through online articles, eBooks or websites like Sacred Space – your information is discovered primarily in books that you have to go to the book store to purchase or when you purchase online you wait for several days for the book to arrive.
  • I will access the most dynamic information with video, sound and more – yours will be printed and photocopied.
  • I will collaborate with my peers from around the world and learn from them what is important about their faith – you will collaborate only with your students in your classroom.
  • I can learn anything I want about my faith anytime and anywhere – you must wait until you read the textbook which may be outdated.
  • I will need to learn how to choose the best information about my Catholic faith tradition as anyone can publish anything at anytime whether it be correct teaching or not – you have had content that is always approved by our bishops via the “imprimatur” and “nihil obstat“.
  • I live in a time where we can learn the best and the worst about my Catholic faith from people of all ages via a variety of electronic means – you will primarily learn your faith from written materials that can be biased or unbiased – depending on the theological perspectives you are exposed to.
  • I will – with my class – interact with our Church leaders (Local Bishop, Parish Pastor, and others) via SKYPE, Facetime, GoToMeeting and other collaborative tools – you will call and make an appointment to meet these same leaders in a Face-to-Face meeting that is scheduled weeks in advance.

I often wonder how our methodology will change in the teaching of our faith to one another.  I see the importance of both face-to-face experiences and the integration of varied technologies in the teaching of our faith to others.  For now – we are Pioneers in a Digital Landscape that changes rapidly around us.

This is why it is important to gather with other pioneers – to learn from one another, to swap success stories (and even to talk about what did not work).  One of the best places to gather is at the annual Interactive Connections Conference that co-locates with the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC).  It is at IC 2013 that we can learn best practices from educators who have been involved in educational technology for over 35 years!

If you’re coming to Orlando – great!  Looking forward to meeting and sharing with you.  If not, I would encourage you to make room in your busy calendar and come.  We need all the pioneers possible to join in this wonderful and challenging endeavor of Sharing the Faith with our ever savvy digital students.

Note:  The list that describes what can happen in this ever evolving world is an adaptation of a list  that was anonymously shared by a student who posted on the Abilene, Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website during the spring of 2003.

Of course, if you like this post, click on the “Like” button.  If you have a comment, I look forward to your participation in the conversation – How do you see our methodology changing as we become more and more a Digital Culture?

Serving, Ministering and Evangelizing in a Digital Culture

Gigs, Geeks, and God 2.0

Wow – 2012 has begun!  Our New Year resolutions may be focusing around exercising.  Eating more vegetables.  Yes, even house cleaning.  But there are some who are beginning the year via Gigs, Geeks, and God 2.0: Technology in Faith Formation.

I shared my thoughts about  The 21st Century Catechetical Leader: Serving, Ministering, and Evangelizing in a Digital Culture today.  Yes, it is a challenge to be a 21st century leader!  Digital skills are needed.  Many of us  were not raised with computers or any other digital tool.  Often we may feel like a fish trying to swim in unfamiliar waters.  Yet, swim we must!

I love being on the other side of the camera.  Many folks are unaware that I once was a wedding photographer for Edward Fox studios in Chicago.  So today, I am on the other side of a webcam delivering a keynote at a Milwaukee technology day for Catechetical Leaders, Youth Ministers, and other Parish Staff.  When I began my catechetical ministry, I never imagined that I would ever be able to do what I did today from another part of the USA (sunny Tampa) presenting to a group in Milwaukee.  With the simple tools of a computer, webcam, mobile phone, and Internet connection while using GoToMeeting to connect with one another.

It takes some practice to do digital presentations.  Yet, the practice results in an event that not only saves money (travel, housing costs, and food), but we have the capability today to do what are called “blended” events.  The blended event uses technology for a purpose and of course on-site face-to-face interaction in the program with others who are in the same geographic location and travel to the hosting location.

What are the advantages of blended professional development events?  Of course, you get to interact and hear others who are not in your part of the world.  The disadvantages?  Yes, I’m one that loves to see folks, interact with them, have coffee or a beverage with them, or just laugh with them.  Well, even in the Digital presentation that is all possible.  I’d encourage you to read the eLearning Advantages and Disadvantages article.  Then come back to this blog to share your insights and learning about the potential of doing blended professional development.  What possibilities do you see in your parish? deanery? diocese?

We’re now able to interact with each other in various ways – before, during, and after an event.  Those who are onsite, will share coffee, donuts and conversation with one another.  In addition, for this event, we can now do the following:

  • Before the conference, go to the Gigs, Geeks, and God Facebook page to follow and participate in the pre-conversation.
  • During the conference, using your mobile phone, Twitter your comments to those who are following you on your Twitter account.  If you add a hashtag  to your 140 character message – for this event use #gigsandgeeks as your hashtag.  Why?  Go to your Twitter page and at the search field enter in #gigsandgeeks.  In a few seconds all tweets associated with this event will show.

Milwaukee Hashtag Summary

  • After the event, search for the conference Twitter Hashtag and/or go back to the Facebook page and/or respond to this blog.

Using Hashtags allows for what is called Backchannel Communication.  As you think of things during (or even after) the conference tweet the 140 character messages to your followers with the hashtag.  If you are interested in learning more about the Backchannel style of Communication, I recommend reading: The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever

Today, we are in a participatory culture!  Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a paper on digital media and learning titled Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century describes this culture as –

A participatory culture is a culture with relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations, and some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created).

We need to ask ourselves – How will we evangelize and share our faith in this ever evolving Digital Culture?  How we catechize is changing!  As Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.”  And I recently heard a friend say, “Without the medium, there is no message.”

So a big congratulations to Milwaukee for their Gigs, Geeks and God 2.0 professional development day.  Here’s an article by Gary Pokorny, CSA Supports Catholics Called To Pass On the Faith.  Gary highlights what his office is doing and how Gigs, Geeks and God is related to it.  It’s wonderful to see how a Diocesan Office is integrating technology into the training and development of their catechetical ministers.  Do check out the Catechesis and Youth Ministry website.  I so appreciate the Technology in Faith Formation page.  One way to engage our catechetical leaders in the importance today of integrating technology into their ministry.

Note:  The following is a recorded version of today’s presentation.

21st Century Catechetical Leader: Serving, Ministering, and Evangelizing in a Digital Culture from Caroline Cerveny on Vimeo.

 

(c) 2011, Caroline Cerveny, SSJ-TOSF

The Times – They are a Changing!

This wonderful term “New Media” – what do we do with it?  The world around us is changing.  And as this world changes, we need to begin to explore who we will bring on board to assist us in our parishes and dioceses so that we can integrate these wonderful digital tools into evangelization, catechesis, and communication ministries.

Photo of Thomas Sanjurjo

Thomas Sanjurjo

I’d like to introduce you to Thomas Sanjurjo, who recently joined the team/staff at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida.  What is important to note, is that he is their first Electronic Outreach Director.  I met him recently at a Sunday liturgy.  After Mass we chatted in the parish hall over coffee.  I left the conversation with Tom with a sense that this parish portrays a model of what it means to be an emerging 21st Century Parish.

Nativity Catholic Church

Why is he important to this parish?  We are now in the midst of an ever evolving Digital Culture that has its own language and tools.  Many of us often feel that we are strangers on the edge observing a world that is both exciting and terrifying.

If I were a missionary in a foreign land, initially I would feel intimidated by not knowing the new language or culture.  Even though I would desire to share the Gospel with others, they would not understand me.  I might possibly offend them, not knowing how important it is to only shake hands at our first meeting instead of giving a warm hug.

Missionaries today are trained in both the language and culture of the country and people they will serve. By the time they arrive in their new and foreign land, they already speak the language and know the fine points of what is acceptable or not in the culture.

So, if we stop to think about the Digital Culture surrounding us. It is a new language and a new culture!  Who is teaching us the language and the ways of this ever evolving culture?

Yes, a professional like an Electronic Outreach Director will not only do ministry via the parish website, Facebook page and more, he/she will also be responsible for training the staff and even parishioners.  After all this Digital Culture affects all of us!  This parish now has an in residence mentor whose job it is to be involved in electronic outreach.

Tom’s description offers an excellent model of a 21st Century minister who is focused on being a Digital Disciple.  He is to be a catalyst in his parish to bring others onboard with being 21st Century ministers and parishioners.  He shared this model of what he is currently doing in the parish:

Electronic Outreach Director Model

Yes, he will be responsible for the daily feeds and updates of the parish FaceBook page, developing and coordinating the parish blog, uploading the Sunday homily to Sunday Mass Podcast, and training his staff and parishioners, and more.  His ministry is just beginning.  It will be a delight to hear more about his ministry in the future.

I’m sure that there are other positions being created at the parish or diocesan level.  If you are aware of these new positions, I invite you take a moment to introduce us to the new position and who is serving in this role.  Let’s share in how we are becoming a 21st Century church!

Copyright ©2011 Caroline Cerveny

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