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Yesterday the National Catholic Register published an interesting article entitled “Sisters Go Online to Promote Vocations,” on how communities of women religious are relying more on the Internet and social media, with some orders report a sharp rise in inquiries.
“For many women discerning religious vocations and communities seeking new members today, the Internet serves as both matchmaker and meeting place. Whereas in the past, most young women learned about religious communities from sisters in schools and other Catholic institutions, the decline in numbers of religious women has caused communities to find different ways of reaching those whom God may be calling to vowed life.
“Chief among these new practices has been use of the Internet, where communities can easily connect with possible candidates. Many, if not most, communities today have some kind of Internet presence–at minimum, a website explaining their history and charisms. Others, like the Mercy sisters, have gone even further by adding chat rooms, blogs, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.”
While social networking alone isn’t enough to foster a “culture of vocations,” it’s increasingly becoming a significant part of the equation, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
In a recent Alaska Dispatch article entitled, “Messaging Catholic monk keeps it real on Facebook,” we learn about the evangelization efforts of Brother John Mary Ignatius, a member of the Belgium-based Community of St. John.
Inspired by Pope Benedict’s exhortation to use the new means of social communication to advance the Gospel, Brother Ignatius reaches thousands of people, mostly youth, through his Facebook page. His approach is authentic and inviting, and his vibrant message is one of joy and hope, which draws young people to Christ.
Our readers are encouraged to visit the the new Facebook page of the Institute on Religious Life and, if you’re so inclined, click the “like” button.
Just last week, the Catholic News Agency published an article on the immense popularity of religion-themed pages on Facebook. These pages attract many people. In fact, a page about Jesus and the Bible received nearly 2.3 million interactions during the week of May 9-15, beating out pop icons like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
This trend is by no means limited to the English-speaking world. For example, coming in ninth place with 460,000 user interactions was the Spanish religion-themed page “Dios Es Bueno!”
And now as the Catholic Church prepares for a worldwide Synod on the new evangelization, we can expect even more of an emphasis on Facebook and other social media sites in the months and years to come.
So please visit our Facebook page and give us feedback, so we can continually improve our outreach in the area of promoting religious life and vocations.
Today I thought I would give a plug to an excellent, new Catholic website called Catholic Lane. There are already several interesting items archived at the vocations page, including a series of testimonies entitled, “The JPII Generation Tells Its Story” and a thought-provoking four-part series entitled, “Reflections on Latin and the Catholic Church’s Memory and Identity.”
The article that really caught my attention, though, is the one entitled, “What Do You Think: Is Facebook a Place for Priests?”–a topic that I’ve often wondered about myself.
The author, Thomas A. Flynn, a seminarian with the Legionaries for Christ, is not on Facebook himself, but even-handedly sets forth both the pros and cons–some of which I think would apply to religious and laity as well. Check it out here.
While on the subject of the use of new technology by priests and religious, I encourage readers to consider attending this year’s national meeting of the Institute on Religious Life, April 30-May 1 in Mundelein, Illinois. The theme is “Go Make Disciples,” and the conference will focus on how best to utilize the new media in the new evangelization. For more information or to register now for the event, click here.