Last week, Brandon Vogt came up to Chicago from Florida to present a Day of Reflection for the Word on Fire staff. The author of The Church and New Media and an emerging expert in the use of digital media for the New Evangelization, Brandon offered his keen insight into the innerworkings of the "virtual Areopagus." Here, Rozann Carter re-caps the event, connecting you to loads of free information so that you can incorporate Brandon's research into your efforts at spreading the Gospel.
In the business world, there is a blogger named Seth Godin who is singlehandedly upping the ante for business professionals and re-writing the handbook for fresh entrepreneurs. Through concise, targeted, often quippy posts, he calls for continual re-evaluation of strategy and message, responding creatively to antiquated business practices by offering a simple and imaginative “new” model. From his website: “he writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.” In a way that is almost vocational in nature, Seth offers his free marketing expertise as a resource for all seekers.
In the Catholic world, there is Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young Italian in the early 20th century who “combined a deep love for Christ, a desire to serve the needy, and a mission to imbue society and politics with Christian ideals” into 24 influential years. His life of beatitude stands as a bold and challenging model for young people who want to change the world in the name of Christ.
Brandon Vogt reminds me, in his intelligence and zeal, of both Grodin and Frassati: Vogt is a 25 year-old husband and father, full-time mechanical engineer, a published author, and a very active proponent of the Church's mission to evangelize via the new media. Brandon was our guest at Word on Fire last week, and he offered presentations to our own staff and invited guests (which included representatives from the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Evangelization and the Vocation Director for Chicago).
Brandon presented on the following:
I. “Telling the Catholic Story: What Mormons, Protestants, and Atheists can teach us about Evangelization”
II. “New Media, New Evangelization: Spreading Catholicism in a Digital Age”
His keys to evangelizing through the new media included a focus on “affirmative orthodoxy,” a term coined by the biographer of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, John Allen, in reference to the evangelical style of Dolan. Affirmative orthodoxy emphasizes, first, the great dignity of the human person and highlights all the things that are fulfilled, emphasized, and strengthened by the Faith.
He spoke of the pivotal importance of being a witness and cited Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii nuntiandi in its accurate assessment that modern man listens far more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.
Listening is also key in new evangelization efforts, even amidst the cacophony of internet postings and com box responses, in order to “get to the issue beneath” the issue.” Efforts to spread the Gospel, Brandon rightly identified, are often met with a certain level of animosity that must be received and diffused, often by first identifying the legitimacy or agreement.
Brandon then provided practical advice on how to learn the language of the new media and to identify cultural expressions so as to insert oneself into the conversation. He encouraged deep unity among new evangelistic efforts, encouraging players to share resources to make the message as accessible as possible.
Most importantly, Brandon reminded new evangelists to create alluring movements by connecting the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in concrete and creative ways and using online ministry to fuel directed efforts toward the alleviation of suffering and care for the poor. This, he reminds us, is important not because it is attractive, but it is attractive because it is of fundamental importance. It must be a part of every evangelical equation. Brandon’s new media spirituality stressed the great spiritual value of balancing activity and contemplation, even in these ever-changing avenues of relationship and communication, so as to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is the principle agent of evangelization. “Prayer, humility, and accepting the cross” puts all new evangelists in the company of the first great speakers of the Word Incarnate: Mary, the Mother of God, St. Peter, St. Paul and the Apostles.
Brandon has summarized these points and others in his book, The Church and New Media (100% of whose proceeds to directly to the Archdiocese of Mombasa in Africa to provide for their educational needs), and has made his extensive list of resources available for your use. Topics include the effective use of social media, building parish websites, setting up facebook pages, etc:
- Church and New Media Resources - Includes general tutorials, how-to guides, articles, and videos, geared toward Catholics, all categorized by new media topic.
Additionally, if your diocese wants to use new media, but isn't sure where to begin, or if your local clergy, religious, teachers, staff, and laypeople can use a new media jolt, consider bringing Brandon and two other enthusiastic young Catholics to your diocese for a Digital Diocese Conference. Find out more info at: www.DigitalDioceseConference.com
Thank you, Brandon, for your wonderful witness and for the example of your “alluring movement.” May Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati continue to guide your evangelical efforts.
Here are some pictures from the event:
Father Steve, Brandon, and Father Barron pause for a photo op in front of the image of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, a pioneer in evangelization through media.
Brandon speaks with attendees prior to the presentation, and Father Barron catches up with Andrew Lyke, Director for the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Father Brian Welter (the Archdiocese's Director of Vocations), Dave Brenner (a seminarian at Mundelein Seminary) and Monsignor Richard Hynes (Director of the Department of Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Chicago) chat about social media and evangelization over a cup of coffee prior to the Day of Reflection.
Father Steve, Father Barron, Jack Thorton, Christian Rocha and Eddie de la Torre listen intently to Brandon's research and strategy.
Attendees, including Christian Rocha, Ashley Collins, Nancy Ross, Patrick Thornton,
Monsignor Hynes and Jack Thornton, take feverish notes:)
Brandon finishes the presentation by offering his 10 Strategies for Effective Evangelization.
In addition, Brandon is hosting a CATHOLICISM giveaway (featuring free copies of the DVD series, the Study Program workbook, and Father Barron’s Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith book) on his blog, The Thin Veil, this Friday, March 2nd. Be sure to visit his site and enter to win!