Online Catholic content now at your fingertips

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Why did St. Paul go to the Areopagus when he visited Athens?

Because that’s where the people were.

What was true in the first century is true today. If you want to evangelize people, you’ve got to take your message to the places where they go.

Today, a lot of people — especially the young — use the Internet to interact and collaborate with others in virtual communities that exist in a conglomeration of social networking sites and other services.

Now, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is part of that ethereal realm, having launched last September its own Digital Media Center.

The center was created in collaboration with MyCatholicVoice, a technology and media services company that works with Catholic organizations.

“The whole mission of the church necessitates being able to reach people in the media forms they are currently using,” said Fred Fosnacht, president and CEO of MyCatholicVoice. “The Digital Media Center is about utilizing those media forms.”

It’s exactly what Pope Benedict called for in the new evangelization: Catholic faithful proclaiming the faith by using new methods and expressions.

Kansas leads the way

Protestant churches and the secular world have been quick to utilize technology to provide a variety of content and opportunities for interaction through the Internet.

And Catholics? Not so much.

“There is a crisis of Catholic content in the English-speaking world,” said Tim Chik, director of Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the archdiocesan Digital Media Center.

“There’s just not enough good, Catholic content,” Chik continued. “There is some, but needs to be more, and it needs to be more readily accessible. We hope to be a vehicle for that — that the Digital Media Center will spur the creation of even better and deeper Catholic online content.”

The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas was the first Catholic diocese in the nation to launch a Digital Media Center, closely followed by the Diocese of Reno and the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

“What we are doing [in Kansas] is unique,” said Fosnacht, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe. “We are starting a model that doesn’t exist in the church today: a single place to come for the best Catholic content. [And] it has the screening that represents the gravity of the teaching of the bishops’ office.”

Others are beginning to notice.  Sister Caroline Ceverny, SSJ, president of Interactive Connections, recently sent this message to the National Association of Catechetical Media Professionals.

“Have you seen the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas?” wrote Sister Caroline. “Is this the wave of the future?”

Not just a website
For many years the archdiocese supported parishes, pastors and catechists through the former Archdiocesan Resource Center.

The center, located at Savior Pastoral Center, had a variety of items that were available for loan: audiocassettes, music CDs, books, videos on tape and DVDs, and other items.

The archdiocese has largely transitioned away from the old lending library model and toward the Digital Media Center, although some items are still sent by mail, said Chik.

“The Digital Media Center is an online resource to support the catechesis, formation, evangelization and personal ministries of the people of God,” said Fosnacht.

“What is unique is that the archdiocese can select from all available content and offer to our local church the best content that has been screened to reflect faithful teaching,” he continued, “and the priorities and ecclesiology of the local church.”

The Digital Media Center can be accessed through the archdiocesan website — but it’s more than just a website.

“The best description of it from a technology standpoint is that it’s not a website, but a cloud service,” said Fosnacht.

“Cloud service means [the content] is actually stored on a bunch of computers literally throughout the United States,” he said. “And here’s why. Unlike a website that streams one thing, we have hourlong videos and lots of media that need to be cued up, not only in the United States, but throughout the world. So it’s not a website, but a content delivery network, or a cloud service — so there are a whole lot of services that make new, fresh content always available.”

Keystrokes to a new world

To get to the Digital Media Center, going to the archdiocesan website —www.archkck.org — and then click on the Digital Media Center button at the right-hand side near the top of the home page.

The home page opens to a large window, called a “ticker,” that cycles through various images.  It’s similar to the opening page of Yahoo.

Below the ticker is a grid of images under four tabs: Recently Viewed, Most Popular, Recently Uploaded and Recommended. This is similar to the home page of YouTube.

To the right of these four categories is a list of tweets from various sources.
Under Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s picture on the right-hand side are three blue buttons: Search, Welcome and Tour, and Library Loan.  New users are advised to take the tour.

All are welcome to visit the site, and there is no requirement to purchase anything or to register. Registering, however, gives you the right to download certain things and to make purchases.

The center contains items created by the archdiocese (all free) and items from a variety of publishers.

The kinds of things found in the center include podcasts, videos, pictures, music and live-stream events. The content is continually updated to reflect the church’s liturgical year and current events occurring in the life of the church.

How the online library can be used is limited only by one’s imagination, according to Chik. The center can be used by individuals for personal enrichment and spiritual growth, by pastors, by faith-sharing groups, youth groups, RCIA classes, and marriage prep instructors.

For example, one parish used a video series as a component in a “date night” for couples, said Chik.

Never before has it been possible for a single Catholic — or groups of Catholics — to have so much information at their fingertips.

“The church as ‘the totality of God’s people’ pre-Internet could hardly be imagined,” said Fosnacht. “Today, we experience it. We are connected, praying, talking, praising, working and being gripped by grace on a digital continent, many for the first time. I can think of no more exciting place to be.”


Digital Media Uses

• View live-streamed events
• View and download resources
• Listen to the archbishop’s radio show
• Access supplemental learning and multimedia resources
• Link to video resources for small group discussion
• Develop a personal prayer routine of reflection and learning
• Enhance parish catechetical programming
• Supplement sacramental preparation
• Enhance Bible study
• Watch online training and meetings
• Discover information about archdiocesan events

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