Rollout calls for forming ‘digital disciples’

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Maybe you remember the movie “Tron” or its sequel “Tron: Legacy,” in which humans left the real world and entered a virtual world.

Those two movies demonstrated the old thinking: Real world and virtual world — two separate things.

Not any more. Every time you receive a tweet, check your email, visit a blog or peruse Facebook, you are living with a foot in both worlds.

Pope Francis, the “Tweeting Pontiff,” is there. And he gets it. The church needs to be a player in the digital world.

“Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will discover valuable opportunities to lead people to the luminous face of the Lord,” said Pope Francis during the 26th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. “Among the possibilities offered by digital communication, the most important is the proclamation of the Gospel.”

The Internet and other technology alone are not enough, he continued.

“This, however, does not mean that the church’s presence online is useless,” the pope said. “On the contrary, it is essential to be present, always in an evangelical way, in what, for many, especially young people, has become a sort of living environment; to awaken the irrepressible questions of the heart about the meaning of existence; and to show the way that leads to him who is the answer, the divine mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.”

To make this happen locally, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas sponsored the event “Forming Digital Disciples: Using New Media to Create a True Encounter with Christ.”

The event, facilitated by MyCatholic Voice founder and CEO Fred Fosnacht, took place at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sept. 9. His company services the archdiocesan Digital Media Center.

“Forming Digital Disciples,” attended by chancery and other archdiocesan staff, was the first in a number of training sessions to be made available to people in leadership and ministry roles throughout the archdiocese.

“We have a responsibility to carry out the great commission [of Christ] to go and spread the Gospel to all the corners of the world and to share the teachings of Christ and his church,” said Fosnacht, “and to do it in a way most suitable for our modern world, to use the most effective techniques of our day.”

The event and subsequent training opportunities, a part of what Fosnacht calls the “New Media Rollout,” are an effort to advance the pastoral priorities of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, and to help archdiocesan Catholics use social media and the new archdiocesan Digital Media Center. The rollout, which will take place from September through December, has two “tracks,” said Fosnacht.

“We have two tracks for training,” he said. “One is focused on teaching church leadership how to use the tools of the digital environment — particularly the Digital Media Center — for evangelization and catechesis.”

“The other track,” he continued, “is for the people in the pews — to just make them aware of what the Digital Media Center is so they can use it for their own personal lives and ministry.”

The first track will make use of “webinars” (conferences that link people in scattered locations via the Internet), meetings, live-streaming training and one-on-one sessions.

The second track, with the theme “Preparing for Advent,” will feature weekly kits sent to parishes in November, pulpit announcements, parish bulletin articles and inserts.

“What we are focusing on are those techniques that are part of the digital environment, where people spend a great deal of their time, and where they meet and encounter others in relationships,” said Fosnacht.

Ultimately, the rollout is meant to form “digital disciples.”

“There isn’t a difference between a digital disciple and any other type of disciple,” said Fosnacht. “There is only one disciple — those who follow the teachings of Jesus.”

“The expression ‘digital disciple’ is intended to recognize that, increasingly, those who follow Jesus spend their time in a digital environment,” he continued. “So the church needs to be present through our digital disciples in this environment.”

 Always something new

MyCatholicVoice provides a resource librarian for the archdiocesan Digital Media Center, who adds new content every week according to the seasons and feast days of the liturgical calendar.

Not only are new publishers being added, but also local events. What this means is that there is a plethora of resources to choose from for directors of religious education, RCIA programs and catechists.

 Connect, explore, engage

  • Connect: The Digital Media Center serves as an integral tool to enable a more frequent and dynamic encounter with Christ and the Catholic Church for all seekers.
  • Explore: The Digital Media Center extends the reach and influence of archdiocesan and parish ministries by providing a resource for safe online access to relevant multimedia content to enhance existing communication channels.
  • Engage: The Digital Media Center encourages the formation of “digital disciples” among ministry leaders and parishioners using new media for evangelization and catechesis.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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