The Media Ministry – Catechesis in the 21st Century by Mary Byrne Hoffmann


The second installment of the review of the LA Congress by Kerry Rush -

Mary Byrne Hoffman

Mary Byrne Hoffman

The presentation made by Mary Byrne Hoffmann was described as:

“a practical, hands-on workshop on the emerging new ministry for catechists – reaching the “plugged in/tuned out” youth of today. Learn how to meet the needs and speak the language of the digital natives of the media culture through a sampling of media-based lesson plans. Participants will discover a hybrid approach to religious education that integrates 21st-century learning tools – blogs, social networking (e.g., Facebook), Google Docs, etc. – with traditional spiritual practices. The workshop will allow time for an “open space” exchange of ideas and resources.”

Below is Kerry’s review of this workshop which she attended as a part of a delegation from Brisbane Catholic Education.

Mary is a media professional, teacher of religious studies and spiritual director. She has taught in this area for 23 years combined with 18 years as a workshop facilitator.

I believe a better title for Mary’s workshop would have been one that comes from one of her catchphrases ” Source the inner net to source the internet.”

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by BdwayDiva1

Mary ‘s message essentially remixes three commonly understood realities about living and learning in the digital age and the part religious education, spirituality and ministry can play to evangelize and nurture spirituality.

Firstly, to remain relevant to the young people of this time, there is no option but  to engage students in learning by including the use of the digital tools, the familiar tools that they use everyday.  This then applies to their religious and spiritual learning and opportunities for broader life experience and personal growth.

Secondly, rapid change in technology, particularly over the last decade, has changed the ways of communicating from using predominately (rationally constructed) print based texts to the more predominant use of (emotional/sensory) visual and auditory texts.  In response to this, the use of quality film and other digital sources that depict Christian values is a contemporary and relevant medium to minister.

Thirdly, these rapid changes and the knowledge explosion has presented incredible  opportunities for everyone to gain access to information and be socially connected 24/7 .  Everyone with access to digital tools can also contribute to and share their knowledge and understandings with potentially global audiences e.g. the rise and popularity of YouTube.  Aligned with this, students need to be exposed to rich digital and multimedia learning tasks that are values based; involving analysis and critical literacy to enhance their religious and spiritual knowledge and experience.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by renaissancechambara

However, where there  are opportunities such as those above, there are always threats, or shadow sides.

For example, digital addiction, lack of discernment, critical illiteracy, and unethical use of digital tools and media all require monitoring, new awareness raising and learning for everyone.

For many, the solution is to go back to the good old days and shut everything down; for the shadow side is too overwhelming. This approach is of course sheer denial of the reality of our changed world that the young have already embraced.  Nevertheless, educators and ministers cannot deny the wide spread malaise of feeling overwhelmed.  This feeling comes to us all in a time of transition and it is a genuine reality for the young and old struggling to keep up with technological and social change.

In addition, Mary points out that for catechesis in the 21st century, we need:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by MiiiSH

  • A spirituality that helps the digitally addicted to know when it is time to plug out of internet consciousness and pursue ways of having a more contemplative and balanced life: “To source the inner net to source the Internet.”
  • A spirituality that is not naive nor ignorant of trends and new signs of this time and possible implications.
  •  A spirituality that can speak the language needed to connect the Good News with the young today,

and most importantly,

  • A spirituality that nurtures a love of learning, problem solving, creativity, discernment, wisdom and ethical behaviors in this new frontier of doing and being in the digital age.
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