Excerpts from a Catholic News Service article “US bishops, Catholic bloggers discuss how tweets, blogs help evangelize” reporting on a nearly three-hour session, the group of two dozen bishops and even more bloggers talked about the challenges in using media to evangelize.

  • “(Archbishop) Fulton Sheen would give his right arm to have the tools we have today,” said Brandon Vogt, a 26-year old Catholic blogger and author of the 2011 book “The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists and Bishops Who Tweet.” Archbishop Sheen, who was declared venerable this year, was known for his preaching on television and radio in the 1950s.
  • Rocco Palmo, author of the popular Catholic blog “Whispers in the Loggia,” urged bishops to recognize that they have something unique to bring to the broad social media table. He gave the example of Bishop Alexander K. Sample of Marquette, Mich., who kicked off the Year of Faith by traveling more than 1,000 miles across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to visit parishes and tweeted about the trip along the way.

“That’s something you bring that can’t be replicated,” Palmo said, noting that people can relate to bishops when they share their experience and also feel close to them. “Your job as guarantors of the faith is to make sure the message has integrity and resonates with people.”

If the bishops had any doubt about the number of people, Catholics in particular, who use social media, a new study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, showed that 62 percent of adult U.S. Catholics, representing an estimated 36.2 million people, have a profile on Facebook; 58 percent of Catholics age 30 and under share content such as pictures, articles and comments at least once a week on social media; and nearly a third of all surveyed said they would like their pastors and bishops to blog.

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Communications, said the CARA report “suggests many opportunities for the church to engage with those who live on the ‘digital continent,'” described by Pope Benedict XVI and urged bishops and Catholic laity to approach this online world as missionaries.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said that on the digital continent “the role of the laity becomes ever more central,” noting that the “voices of the many Catholics who are present in blogs, social networks and other digital forums are reaching people who might not otherwise encounter the message of Jesus.”

Some of the bishops at the meeting expressed a hesitancy to jump into the online social media world, noting that it could take a lot of time and that there can be a lack of civility in many online discussions and comments and in a small group discussion, one bishop said he was overwhelmed by the concept of tweeting even a few times a day.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., took that idea a step further by encouraging young bloggers to help the church in this work, suggesting that they call their pastor or bishop and offer to help.

Bloggers in turn advised bishops to talk about the faith — in quick and entertaining ways — by linking faith to current events or even discussing movies in blogs or video reflections.

Mary DeTurris Poust, said “Facebook is the new parish hall” where people meet and look for spiritual guidance and connections. “If they don’t find it in our virtual walls, they will find it elsewhere,” she said.


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