by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Someone who Googles the question “Who is Jesus?” or “Does God exist?” will get a lot of answers.
Just not — at least in the top few results — answers the Catholic Church would likely offer.
And that concerns Matthew Warner, a Catholic blogger and the CEO and founder of flockNote.com.
He shared that concern, and other thoughts, at the fourth annual Catholic New Media conference, held Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan. The conference drew an international crowd of Catholics interested in using new media to share their faith and spread the Gospel.
Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for the office of social justice, was impressed by Warner’s message.
“As Catholics, we believe we are [Christ’s] church,” said Scholl. “This is a church that was founded by Jesus Christ himself.”
“The Internet enables us to communicate universally in a way we’ve never been able to before,” he continued.
It is universal. And yet, a search of the Internet with the world’s most popular search engine doesn’t yield an official Catholic entity in its top hits.
SQPN, the Star Quest Production Network, is a nonprofit Catholic apostolate whose mission it is to form and evangelize through new media. That’s why it presents the annual new media conference, which this year focused on the social network.
Scholl produces Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s radio show, which is also available in podcast form. Scholl attended the conference with the goal of gaining some ideas and perspective.
Dr. Paul Camarata, a member of Church of the Nativity in Leawood and another participant in the conference, has for several years created a podcast called “The SaintCast.”
He has worked with SQPN and was interviewed — along with SQPN founder and CEO Father Roderick Vonhogen of the Netherlands — on Archbishop Naumann’s radio show a few weeks before the conference. Camarata said he was excited to see the conference and its list of speakers coming to Kansas City, Kan.
Attendees heard from Sister Anne Flanagan, FSP, from Pauline Books & Media, and from Sean Patrick Lovett, who is the director of the Italian and English services of Vatican Radio.
Greg Willits, who co-hosts “The Catholics Next Door” with his wife Jennifer on SiriusXM’s “The Catholic Channel,” served as the emcee.
Presenters also included author and CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey, and podcaster, speaker and writer Pat Gohn. Jeff Geerling shared ways to make the latest gadgets work for communication and outreach.
“It was fascinating to be with all of these folks,” said Rose Hammes, archdiocesan director of communications and planning. She saw a wide range of ages and a diverse use of media, ranging from blogs to Twitter.
“I had no idea there was so much online content being generated that’s all about the Catholic faith,” she said.
Hammes took particular note of what the conference had to say about smartphones.
“Smartphones have just changed the way people communicate with each other,” she said.
But the Catholic Church is just starting to figure out ways to put information in people’s hands in formats that connect with them through these devices.
Hammes discovered quite a few applications of interest through the conference and has begun following people through social media to delve further into what she learned there.
One app she really liked is the “Saint of the Day.”
There are many ways to reach out to Catholics through new media, but these are also good tools for evangelization of others, she believes.
And new media isn’t about merely putting a message out there; it’s about developing a relationship.
Scholl agrees. Broadcasting is a one-way form of communication, and there’s a need to get away from that kind of thinking, he said. It’s key, he stressed, to turn to a relational mentality.
“You want to provide ways for people who are receiving your content to interact with you,” he said.
People want to know how the faith personally affects them.
“It’s important to be personal and it’s important to be authentic,” Scholl learned during the conference.