by Kara Hansen
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a seminarian looks like? Or how a religious Sister spends her time?
Now is your chance to find out, with the help of the archdiocesan vocations office’s new Web site.
Equipped with several new features, the site includes individual biographies and contact information for each seminarian, a “day in the life” synopsis from current priests in the archdiocese, and information on upcoming vocation events.
“Our old Web site had some basic information, but did not have the kind of content that would keep young people coming back,” said Father Mitchel Zimmerman, archdiocesan vocations director. “Nor did it really tell the ‘story’ of how one listens for and responds to a religious vocation.
“We know that young people go first to the Web for information, so we wanted a site that made a great first impression.”
Rather than focus solely on vocations to the priesthood, the Web site also includes detailed information on consecrated and religious life in the archdiocese.
Among its interactive features are both an “Ask a Priest” and an “Ask a Seminarian” forum, polls, and a spot to sign up for event and news updates.
Father Zimmerman said the Web site, while completely redesigned and vastly improved, was just the beginning of using the Internet as a tool for connecting with people interested in vocations.
“We are getting hundreds of ‘hits’ every month, but I would like to see that turn into thousands as we are able to add more video and audio features,” he said. “Some priests and others in the church are doing great reaching young people through YouTube and really evangelizing that medium.
“I hope we can be out there as well, teaching and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”
Father Zimmerman said the Web site also makes vocations ministry more efficient, as materials are available for ordering instantly and event information is available to people who want it, as opposed to sending out a large mailing. A list of resources — including brochures, holy cards, and DVDs – is available on the Web site for anyone who is interested.
“We recently got a request for our St. Paul holy cards from a lady in Dayton, Ohio, who wanted to use them for two classes,” said Melanie Norris, administrative assistant for the vocations office.
Norris said feedback on the Web site has been positive so far and has brought greater traffic, e-mails, and online event registration.
“It’s fascinating to see how quickly features are viewed. If we get a new story posted in the morning, sometimes later in the day I’ll see that 50 people have viewed it,” she said. “Our new Web site is giving us many new and creative ways to communicate with thousands of people.”
So far, the informational bios on each of the seminarians have drawn the most hits.
“I certainly have had people come up to me in person and ask follow-up questions to my bio and other things that I have written on the site, all of which has been very positive,” said Anthony Saiki, a seminarian from St. Paul Parish in Olathe.
Saiki said the new vocations office Web site would have been a helpful tool had it been available when he began considering the possibility of entering the seminary.
“The new site would have been a great asset in my discernment to enter the seminary and it would have been a great tool for me as I began the application process to interact with those who were already answering God’s call,” he said.
Deacon Pat Sullivan, a seminarian from the Church of the Nativity in Leawood, agreed.
“I remember using the [archdiocesan] vocations Web site when I was considering the seminary, and the information available through it back then was minimal but still helpful,” said Deacon Sullivan. “I could have easily seen myself using the features like the ‘Ask a Seminarian’ or ‘Ask the Vocations Director’ forum of the new site.”
Deacon Sullivan said those features, as well as the ability to communicate via e-mail through the Web site, provide a level of anonymity for people who would like more information on vocations but are not yet ready to sit down and chat with the vocations director in person.
“The new Web site gives people a way to access this information 24/7, whenever it might be on their mind,” he said.
Saiki also said the new site fits in well with meeting youth and young adults where they are.
“I think that this new interactive site is just what we need in order to communicate with young people in this day and age, with many of our young people getting all of their information over the Internet through blogs, news Web sites, and in other forums such as Facebook and MySpace. I would encourage everyone to visit this site frequently and to interact with the priests and seminarians,” he said.
Father Zimmerman hopes all the site’s new features will increase his office’s communication with those interested in a vocation and ultimately help them receive the direction and guidance they need for their faith journey, wherever it might lead.
“Our hope is that the thousands of young people in our archdiocese will see the vocations office as a ‘friend,’” he said, “like the ‘friends’ they make on other social networking sites.
“We want to be the office that young people look to often and early, rather than an office that works only with a few young men and women who are currently applying for seminary or religious life,” said Father Zimmerman.
“Our hope is that our new Web site will generate lots of activity and discussion,” he added, “and give more of our young people a chance to say ‘yes’ to a religious vocation.”