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Parish Outreach in the 21st Century

November 7, 2014


At the close of the recent synod, Pope Francis made a brilliant comment that deserves some reflection. He said:

“So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.”

This seems right to me. The mission of the Church is not one of sitting around and hoping someone rings the rectory doorbell. We must be involved in outreach. We must go out.

So, where do we go to find people? There are no doubt many answers to this question.

Nevertheless, certainly if we are going to go out to where people are–where they live–we have some obligation to reach out to them through social media. The world today lives online. (See some mind-boggling statistics here.)

Using social media for Christian outreach cannot be simply an “option” anymore. Whatever your feelings toward it, one cannot simply pretend social media doesn’t exist or that it is merely a minor part of the culture of the 21st century.

I’m not saying the internet is not without its dangers. Let me be clear about that. But, as the old saying goes, abuse does not negate proper use.

With that in mind, I have to write about one of the projects of our parish priest, Fr. Anthony Saroki (Pastor, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, San Diego). Working with parishioners who are involved in marketing on social media, Fr. Saroki has written and helped produce videos that parishioners can share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

This, in my mind, is at least part of what it means to preach the Gospel in the 21st century. As Pope St. John Paull II said after another synod, 

“For the new evangelization to be effective, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the culture of our time in which the social communications media are most influential. Therefore, knowledge and use of the media, whether the more traditional forms or those which technology has produced in recent times, is indispensable. Contemporary reality demands a capacity to learn the language, nature and characteristics of mass media. Using the media correctly and competently can lead to a genuine inculturation of the Gospel. At the same time, the media also help to shape the culture and mentality of people today, which is why there must be special pastoral activity aimed at those working in the media.” (Ecclesia in America, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation [January 22, 1999], 72.

Here’s Fr. Saroki’s latest. Please consider sharing it with others!