I wonder if you will be as shocked as I was two years ago. Then, our newly hired Director of Communications for the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, Heather Salwach, presented the following Facebook stat for Mary’s Miraculous Medal Family …
Mary’s Miraculous Medal (CAMM) Facebook page 2.4 million followers exceeded the number of followers for
- Catholic Church – 2.3 million
- Bed Bath and Beyond – 2.2 million
- Pope Francis – 2 million
- AARP – 1.5 million
- Staples – 1.4 million
- US News – 1 million
I don’t know the current stats for these other Facebook pages. I do know that as of this writing Mary’s Miraculous Medal Family followers has swelled by another 1/2 million to more than 2.9 million! Digital marketers would be over the moon for such an increase!
At that time, these numbers even caught the attention of Facebook itself. They contacted then Director of Communications, Liz Magarity, to find out what was happening behind the scenes. Her answer in effect was “Mary” (But it was in large part her understanding of both Mary’s followers and Facebook.)
Surprised? Can you now appreciate why I say that the Facebook page for the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal (CAMM) based in Germantown is the Eastern Province’s best-kept ministry secret… and its best kept secret digital ministry.
The power of Mary and shrines as “powerhouses of evangelization” especially digitally
These stats came flooding back to me as I read reports of the first International Convention of Rectors and Pastoral Worker of Shrines meeting in Rome. The meeting, significantly, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. I say “significantly” since Pope Francis has moved the jurisdiction over shrines to the Council charged with evangelization. The convention, held in Rome Nov. 27-29, focused on “shrines as an open door to the new evangelization.”
Addressing those gathered for Pope Francis said,
“The shrine is a privileged place to experience mercy that knows no boundaries.”
“In fact, when mercy is lived, it becomes a form of real evangelization, because it transforms those who receive mercy into witnesses of mercy,”
He also warned against paying more attention to the material needs of the shrine than to visitors. Pilgrims, he said, should be made to feel ‘at home,’ like a long-awaited family member who has finally arrived.” Apparently close to 3 million people feel at home in the digital home of Mary’s Central Shrine in Germantown, Pa.
The Pope often speaks about shrines as “powerhouses of evangelization.” (See my reflection on evangelization as the awareness of being loved.) What a powerhouse for evangelization has been sitting beneath our noses in Mary’s Miraculous Medal Family Facebook page.
Significantly, the Pope also speaks of an “interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization.” (Evangelii Gaudium). “There is a Marian ‘style’ to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness.” (Evangelii Gaudium). These are topics for further reflection in themselves.
That is a topic for further exploration in itself.
Some things to consider
- Was I shocked by these numbers?
- Have I ever thought of using social media as a tool of evangelization?
- How can I use social media as a way of letting people know they are loved?
The digital ministry of the Eastern Province
This is a striking example of not only what can be done but IS being done to use digital ministry in Evangelization. I am happy to report that CAMM (Central Association of the Miraculous Medal) under the leadership of Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag, has significantly increased its commitment to improving its digital communication, and indeed all forms of communication. It has increased its staff of young writers and people skilled in video graphic communication. CAMM is working in close cooperation with the Eastern Province administration to support the Province’s various forms of communication. All of this with a special blessing from Mary.