The Role of the Internet in Ministry

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In his message for the 36th World Communication Day in 2002, Blessed Pope John Paul II laid the foundation, that has since been built upon by Pope Benedict XVI, for the role that the internet should play in ministry.  Delivered before the launch of Facebook or Twitter, the following three principles from the 36th World Communication Day provide a guideline for the use of New Media in Catholic evangelization and catechesis:

  1. Evangelization: Cast wide your nets
    • “The internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses.  Above all,  by providing information and stirring interest it makes possible an initial encounter with the Christian message…”
    • New media, and specifically websites, blogs, and social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, allow us to “cast wide our nets” like never before.  Never in the history of mankind have we had a greater opportunity to evangelize to so many, so quickly.  Let us “be not afraid” to lower our nets through the use of New Media and trust in the immense “catch” that God will provide.
  2. Catechesis: Nourish the Flock
    • “At a subsequent stage, the internet can also provide the kind of follow-up which evangelization requires. Especially in an unsupportive culture, Christian living calls for continuing instruction and catechesis, and this is perhaps the area in which the internet can provide excellent help…”
    • Not only can we use New Media as a tool for evangelization, but we should also use it as a form of catechesis. Websites, blogs, and video/audio podcasts are excellent mediums for creating digital libraries that can be accessed 24/7/365.  Social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, are great vehicles for directing and inviting others to drink of these reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom. So  ”be not afraid” to “nourish the flock”.
  3. Discipleship: Fulfill, not abolish
    • “But it is also true that electronically mediated relationships can never take the place of the direct human contact required for genuine evangelization.  For evangelization always depends upon the personal witness of the one sent to evangelize (cf. Romans 10: 14-15).”
    • New Media can never replace the personal relationships required for true discipleship. Although a great tool for evangelization and catechesis, the goal of the use of New Media is ultimately to bring others into a relationship with Christ through His Church.  Thus, the internet and New Media should not abolish the personal relationships required for discipleship, but rather fulfill them!

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Josh Simmons

Josh Simmons is the founder and CEO of eCatholic, one of the largest providers of Catholic websites in the country. He is also one of the founders of the Digital Church Conference - a one-day conference held in dioceses around the country designed to inform, inspire, and empower Catholic parishes, schools, and dioceses to embrace and effectively use new media. He lives in College Station, Texas, along with his wife Elizabeth and their 5 children.

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