Zooming our way into a digital world?

by | Aug 11, 2023 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

In the American literary classic, Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in the Catskill Mountains and woke up 20 years later, having missed the American Revolution.

For over thirty years we have been living in the very early stages of a “digital revolution”. We are just now beginning to wake up to how this digital revolution is impacting every facet of our lives.  

Email and Zoom are both the blessing and the curse of  the process of waking up to a digital revolution.

In this Vincentian Mindwalk, I use “Zooming“ as a metaphor for opening our eyes to different ways of doing business… and serving.

Prophetic voices

It is not that we were not warned. A 20-year-old document from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications saw the broad outlines before most people. The Church and the Internet said …

“the Internet, which is helping bring about revolutionary changes in commerce, education, politics, journalism, the relationship of nation to nation and culture to culture—changes not just in how people communicate but in how they understand their lives.”

That same year St.  John Paul II wrote

“Although the virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel, it can complement them, attract people to a fuller experience of the life of faith, and enrich the religious lives of users.”

With all our zooming we have just begun to speak the language. We must go on to understand the culture.

Missionaries have been told for centuries, they must first learn the language of a new territory. But they must also understand the culture to speak effectively to that different culture.

Vincentian perspectives

Former Superior General Gregory Gay challenged Vincentians over ten years ago…

“… the world has changed faster than most of us would ever have anticipated.  The internet is one of the key movers in this change. …

“I have two questions to pose to you for your reflection, my brothers.

“First, How will the world be different in just six years?

“Whether we like it or not, technology will be woven more and more into the fabric of our lives, even the lives of the poorest among us.

“Second, Will we be ready to serve in such a world?

Some 25 years ago the Final Document of the 1998 Congregation of the Mission General Assembly presciently made the connection:

“We are entering into an era of information technology which brings with it unrecognized, and therefore even more insidious forms of poverty. If the poor remain without access to information technology, they will be further marginalized and locked into a cycle of poverty.”

“We are currently seeing a two-tier education becoming solidified with children who lack of access to computers or parents poorly prepared to guide them. Their parents will increasingly be locked into jobs that will perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

As Vincentians we need to recognize how this revolution will reinforce the already existing structures of poverty.

STRUCTURAL information poverty should be a concern of all the followers of Vincent.

Allow me to modify Vincent’s well- known words: The Vincentian Family is not now what it once was. Nor is it what it is called to be.

Let us wake up to the impact of the digital revolution on those we serve.


  • Am I aware that the “digital revolution” is much more profound than just using email, or “binge-watching ?
  • How conscious am I of the long-term consequences of the structural dimensions of information poverty?
  • Do I ask with Vincent  “What must be done ” to serve in a digital culture?

Originally posted on Vincentian Mindwalk


1 Comment


    Food for thought. This article should appear in every Sunday bulletin.

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