Catholic schools are not only places that foster the educational development of students they are increasingly provide the school community, in all its cultural and spiritual diversity, with opportunities to engage with the Catholic Christian Faith Tradition. In a contemporary context with fewer people regularly attending mass it is often the school that not only teaches the wider school community about religion it also provides the community with religious experience. It is in this dual nature of the teaching and ministry of Catholic schooling that the wider community needs to be invited into a rich and meaningful dialogue around faith.
Who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church?
The Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge spoke at Brisbane Catholic Education’s Powerhouse of Leaders 2012, a gathering of the diocese year 12 student leaders (read more about this event in an earlier post) calling those present to be not only leaders of their schools, but also leaders in the Church. Leading the Church into and onto the ‘digital continent’ is the perfect opportunity for today’s youth in the church to lead. His Grace asked the student leaders, who will be the ‘digital missionaries’ of the church? Watch the Archbishop’s homily to hear more of what he shared.
The call to become ‘digital missionaries’ provides school and parish communities with some challenges but also with many exciting new opportunities to reflect and imagine how this might take place. An aspect of this challenge is the belief that technology can be seen as a way to replace much of what makes life and living so rich and vibrant, especially a catholic Christian life. So it is important to engage with technology and media in a way that sustainable, American psychologist Sherry Turkle, in her TED Talk Connected, but alone? examines the way technology is used by people to feel connected. Ultimately Turkle concludes that contemporary technology must be embraced not as an alternative but as a vehicle to deepen traditional experiences. This is a balance is not commonly achieved in the secular world, but, perhaps this is where these emerging digital missionaries are needed most.
How might this look in a school or parish community?
It is timely to pause and ask the question, how might this look in a school or parish community? It is also timely to look to those organisations and groups who are engaging with contemporary media and technology in some really exciting ways, locally, nationally and internationally. You’ll see it’s already happening.
Locally, Brisbane Catholic Education’s newly developed Religion and Ethics course is a quality example of using media to engage and extend students learning with a blend of traditional and contemporary pedagogies and ultimately providing students with a learning experience that challenges students to be active, critical and powerful members of their communities.
The Faith and Life team of the Archdiocese of Brisbane are also engaging with contemporary technologies and media in exciting new ways. Hosting a YouTube channel means that now the entire diocese and beyond can connect to the Cathedral and Archbishop Mark. In addition to this, the recently published prayer resource atimeofgrace for the Year of Grace further engages with technology in an exciting way. Using a variety of prayers and QR codes or links to online content, this resource merges traditional prayer types with contemporary resources and ways of praying.
Caritas Australia are successfully using social media to help communicate to the wider community news about their work and to promote their annual Project Compassion. Students and parishioners can follow Caritas Australia on the official facebook page or twitter account and can watch the many great films made by Caritas Australia via YouTube.
Internationally His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has compelled to the church to engage with social networks. He himself has almost 1.5 Million English speaking followers on his official twitter account and many thousands more followers across His 8 additional non-english accounts. Follow His Holiness on twitter here You can also down load The Pope App which provides access to news, photos, video and much more.
Also the team of WYD RIO 2013 are engaging with social media in a way that is quite exciting. With a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, this team are producing and sharing some fresh and youthful media. Truly engaging and connecting pilgrims in the conversation of World Youth Day 2013 before the official gathering begins later this year.
How can a school or parish compete with large organisations?
Now that you are more aware of how the wider church community is engaging with contemporary media, the question still remains, How might this look for a school or parish? Most of these sites produce and distribute media are from bigger institutions with budgets and paid staff. Many can also draw on the services of in-house professional graphic designers. So how can a school or parish develop media at the same level? Again turning to contemporary technology and in particular to mobile devices and the wide selection of photographic apps available schools and parishes can produce media at the same level of quality as these groups. The following brief list is a collection of some great apps that the team at ResourceLink have used to produce quality pieces of media in a faith context. Such as the reflective image shown.
Camera+, add vintage filters, frames and text to your photos with this easy to use app.
- WordFoto, turn photos into stunning word art!
- PicPlayPost, collage and frame together images and video.
- InstaQuote create quotes that are easily shared and beautiful.
What’s a way forward?
Harnessing the power contemporary technology combined with the energy and capacity of young and the young at heart, schools and parishes can be inspired to answer the call of both His Holiness Benedict XVI and His Grace Mark Coleridge to boldly lead the church into and onto the digital continent. By do so schools and parishes will engage their communities in a conversation about their Catholic Christian faith and to do so in ways that have the potential to challenge and transform believers and those seeking faith.