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Faith on Facebook? Author stresses need for 'digital missionaries'

By MAGGIE LAWSON

Boston, Mass., Oct 2, 2014 / 12:23 pm (CNA) - Catholic presence in social media is critical in reaching out to those who are lost or distanced from the Church, said Catholic executive and media expert Scot Landry.

“New Media is a great place of encounter,” Landry told CNA in a recent interview.

“Pope Francis is calling the Church to reach out to those who are lost in any way. One of the best ways for us to do that today is through being present in new and social media, in ways that allow us to befriend others, establish and deepen relationships, listen to them, and accompany them on their journey.”

In addition to helping the Archdiocese of Boston grow its new media ministry, Landry has served as a consultant and leader for numerous Catholic organizations.

He is currently the executive director of Catholic Voices USA, a communications training group that seeks to teach lay people to defend Church teaching in the media and public square.
Landry released his book, “Growing the Church through New Media: Transforming Parish Communications,” earlier this year. So far, it has received a tremendous response.

“The book is selling very well. Amazon has run out a couple of times, and a few dioceses have recommended it strongly to all their parishes,” he commented, saying he was pleased by the strong endorsements the book had received by various media leaders, such as Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

“I wrote the book to encourage parishes that haven’t embraced new and social media fully, and those that are simply present, but not very active, to become more active, putting into practice what Pope Francis is asking all of us – to go to the peripheries where people are at, and to share the love of Christ through the Church,” Landry explained.

“Hopefully, the book will lead more parishes to animate their parishioners to become digital missionaries that the Church calls them and needs them to be.”

Using the first apostles as role models for the modern day Christian, Landry reflected on how the apostles overcame their fear in the upper room after Jesus’ crucifixion. Only when their confusion was replaced with purpose could they set off on missions of evangelization throughout the world.  

In his book, Landry suggests that Christians today should take after the apostles and set aside confusion and fear, embarking on the courageous mission of evangelization through the outlets of social and new media.

He noted that “there are over 1 billion Catholics in the world today, and we are indebted to those first disciples, and all those who followed them, for handing on the faith to each subsequent generation, sometimes in very challenging circumstances, and often at the cost of their own lives. We are entrusted today with that same mission.”

Quoting Saint Pope John Paul II, Landry said that we should “not be afraid to embrace these new forms of interaction and communication.”

“New media is one of the easiest ways for everyday Catholics to evangelize,” he said, adding that something as simple as re-tweeting Pope Francis is a way to evangelize those who would not normally hear the message of Christ.

He went on to encourage the Church’s presence in media, saying that “many people spend large amounts of their free time on new media, and it’s critical that we as a Church are present there.”

“Be encouragers and great listeners on social media, showing how true friendship can be modeled in the digital world,” Landry urged.

“If we do this, as Pope Benedict XVI used to say, we’ll give the internet a soul, and as Pope Francis now says, we will reach people on the periphery with the saving messages of the Gospel.”

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