- Prayer and Worship
- Beliefs and Teachings
- Issues and Action
- Catholic Giving
- About USCCB
Thank you for this time today to present to you some exciting projects from our USCCB Communications Department, projects in support of your good work as bishops, shepherds for our people.
I know this doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you, but communications technology continues to evolve at, what is for me at least, a dizzying rate.
Not too many years ago, about 2006, I was with a priest who was being distracted by something on his phone. “What are you doing,” I asked. He explained that his nephew had just created something that allowed the two of them to share short messages with each other directly, things like where they were, what they were eating. “Tell your nephew he should stop talking about his Cheerios and get back to studying,” I said, joking.
Well, that young man, who founded Twitter, got the last laugh on me! Not only is Twitter a social media platform valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, Pope Francis has become the most prominent faith leader using Twitter, tweeting in 9 different languages with almost 20 million following him.
Of course, Twitter is just one of the new media channels that are available to the Church, as we attempt to follow the example of St. Paul and so many other missionaries who have gone before us. Pope Benedict challenged us to think about the new world of communications technology as a Digital Continent, and to follow in Paul’s footsteps in proclaiming the Good News to people who are so hungry for community, for relationships and for love that they are checking their electronic devices hundreds of times a day to “stay connected.”
As Pope Francis wrote in the 48th World Communications Day message, we know that technology can be, and is being, used for unhealthy and even sinful purposes. It can be used to isolate, to belittle or to defame others. The speed of communication today can inhibit reflection and spiritual growth. And for those who are cut off from the Internet due to repressive regimes or economic factors, they are literally being denied basic freedoms and their God-given right to flourish as human beings.
Those realities make it even more imperative that the Church be present in the digital platforms. Again in the 48th World Communications Day message, Pope Francis wrote, “As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first. … The digital highway is … a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the Internet, the Christian message can reach ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. “
Many of you, together with your staffs and pastors, are indeed keeping your digital doors open, going out on the digital highway to be Good Samaritans. Today I want to present to you four ways that the USCCB Communications Department can assist you in this ministry that is growing daily in importance.
I will cover four initiatives today:
This project came from a request of the body of bishops, when the late Cardinal George was president of the Conference. Led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond, an ad hoc committee of bishops developed several recommendations on ways that the USCCB Communication Department and other Catholic media outlets could collaborate in improving church communications.
The Catholic Communication Consultation Initiative is funded in large part by grants from the Catholic Communication Campaign and administered by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. Dioceses can request a team of professionals to assist them in assessing their current communication work, developing a strategic communication plan, and implementing best practices in all aspects of communications, from social media to newspaper or magazine publishing to public relations.
Since this project began in 2013, eight dioceses and archdioceses have used its services, and a waiting list is beginning. Several bishops have expressed appreciation about the cost-effective funding and the ability to use experts who not only know communications, but also the Church.
Most of you are familiar with this subscription service from the USCCB, but some may not be aware that it now includes a weekly service called “This Week in Ministry” that provides downloadable parish bulletin inserts, social media graphics and text, resources for newsletters, websites, faith formation and more. “This Week in Ministry,” like other resources from myUSCCB, allows Catholic leaders to spend less time planning and more time engaged in active ministry. As one bishop noted, it also provides Catholic leaders the latest information from the USCCB and how they can integrate that content into their weekly programs and ministries.
Beginning soon, “This Week in Ministry” will be providing resources that will assist in preparing people for Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, the World Meeting of Families and the October Synod of Bishops.
In addition, myUSCCB is being used as a platform to host webinars on topics of importance to our priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders, issues such as religious liberty and the upcoming papal encyclical on the environment. In these webinars we bishops are providing Church teaching and USCCB resources to our leadership.
While the official schedule for the papal visit has not been released, there is a great deal of anticipation and excitement already building for the week of Sept. 22-27, when the World Meeting of Families gathers in Philadelphia and when Pope Francis will visit Washington, DC, New York City and Philadelphia. Later in this meeting we will learn more about the World Meeting of Families from Archbishop Chaput.
Pope Francis’ approval rating among Catholics, as reported by the Pew Research Center, is nearly as high as St. John Paul II’s was in the early years of his pontificate and in 1996, after the fall of Communism.
This interest is also coming from secular media as they look forward to the papal visit. Cable television networks intend to dedicate entire channels to 24-hour coverage of the papal visit, and it is anticipated that more than 8,000 journalists and other media professionals will seek credentials for the visit.
To respond to this interest, the USCCB Communications Department has contacted many communications entities to seek collaboration and to build synergy for our communications work. This has included:
Finally, allow me to introduce to you the new Catholic Church mobile app, which will, we hope, introduce the Church to thousands of individuals, especially during the visit of Pope Francis.
Today, more than 75 million people in the United States self-identify as Catholics. From studies, we know that Catholics are looking for more ways to connect with the Church. (And we're always looking for more ways to connect with them.)
They're also looking for easier ways to connect. Whenever, wherever they need us. They might be searching for a parish when they are new to an area or visiting. They could be looking for a parish that feels right for them. Or if they already have a church, they might be seeking information, such as Mass or confessional times.
They may want to reach out to the Church for the daily Scriptures and inspiration. Or connect with their diocese or archdiocese. And of course, they are searching for news about — and messages from — the Holy Father.
The new Catholic Church app can do all of this and more for Catholics across the country.
But it isn't just for the millions of Catholics in the United States. It's also for all the dioceses and thousands of parishes across the US, to help you engage with your communities and reach out to Catholics everywhere.
Clearly, we all know the importance of being online: 98 percent of parishes have websites.
But in the last few years, desktop computers are being left behind in the move to mobile devices. People are now taking their digital connection with them wherever they go:
That's why our Committee is recommending a single, shared, affordable solution for going mobile: The Catholic Church Mobile App.
This is the easiest way possible for parishes and dioceses to have a mobile presence — and get your message into the hands of your parishioners.
Now let's talk about how the app works and what it can do.
What other features does the app offer?
If you are interested in using this app to provide information to Catholics about your parishes or diocese, access to the content-providing areas is included with your subscription to myUSCCB.
We’ll be sending more information about how you can sign up now and be ready for the launch in mid-July. Remember, though, regardless of whether your diocese or parishes wish to participate, users will be able to access the app which will provide basic parish locations, Mass times and all USCCB and papal news.
Our USCCB Communications Department will be providing more information in the near future. I encourage you to tell your parishes about this new opportunity to bring the Church closer to Catholics … And Catholics closer to the Church.
Here's a web video we've created that will help tell U.S. Catholics about the newest way to connect with their Church. (SHOW VIDEO)
I hope you find these projects and initiatives as exciting as I do. As Pope Francis has said, “The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination!” Thank you for your time today.
By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided
solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for,
nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or