|The Pope in the Age of Social Media|
Friday, January 7, 2011
Winning Souls for Christ Via Facebook Et Al
Last year, I attended a workshop at the Couples for Christ Center entitled "New Media Evangelization". Majority of the attendees were from the Singles for Christ and I can only count a handful of Couples for Christ members, maybe because young people are more inclined to be interested with the theme of the workshop. We had Fr. Jboy Gonzales, Director of the Jesuit Communications (Jescomm) as resource person. Aside from his duties for Jescomm, Fr. Jboy is a blogger with two blogs under his belt.
Fr. Jboy said that at present, there is a deficiency of faith in the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. A vast number of Filipino Catholics are unchurched, meaning they don't go to Church or if they do, they don't know why they go to Church in the first place. These so called unchurched are clueless on the rituals of the Church. With this dire scenario not only in Philippines but worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI declared in his message at the 44th World Day of Communications in January, 2010 that the new mission area is the cyberspace. He urged priests to be creative in carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God. He even instructed them to use blogs in proclaiming the gospel instead of only having a website. Blogs, one of the channels of social media, encourage interaction and engagement between readers and the blogger, compared to websites which tend to be static. Fr. Jboy's blog, Faith of a Centurion, is a journal of the daily readings and gospels. He presents the gospel in a very light manner and makes for interesting reading.
According to Susan Ward of About.com, social media is an online media that expedites conversation or dialogue as opposed to traditional media which doesn't allow readers to participate in content development. In this medium, people are talking, giving comments, sharing and networking. It is easy to share photos in Flikr and Picasa, blogs in Blogger and Wordpress, videos in YouTube, comments in Facebook, update status in Twitter or Plurk, to the world at large. It is this characteristic of social media, that of being given a chance to be engaged and to engage others, that make it fun and very much acceptable to practically all ages.
In the Philippine setting, there are 10 million Facebook users as of September 2010 according to the Philippine Internet Review. Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, Multiply and Blogger lead the pack of the stickiest websites for Filipino internet users.
How then can the Church and religious organizations like Couples for Christ leverage on social media? The Holy Father put it simply. "Reach young believers by going to the places where they spend their time and converse".