January 28, 2015 // Local

Parishes find websites offer welcome to their parish communities

By Tim Johnson 

HUNTINGTON — In this age of New Evangelization, many parishes find that their website might be just the tool to welcome current parishioners, visitors and anyone who wants to learn more about the parish.

Our Sunday Visitor’s Faith in Action Websites offers just the tool that has been deployed to help 13 Fort Wayne-South Bend diocesan churches or schools. And nationally, over 450 websites, including parishes, Catholic schools and other nonprofit organizations, use the Faith in Action Websites platform — and even some small businesses.

Eileen Pecoraro is the marketing and communications manager at Our Sunday Visitor  (OSV) for the websites. She said, “Parishes like the system because it is easy to use, update, we have training and support, the content provides a sound understanding of what it means to be Catholic and the ability to provide parishioners a place to get up-to-date information about their home parish.”

She added, “The updating content provides parishioners inspiration and spiritual growth without added work for the webmaster or volunteers.”

“The websites are a CMS system (Content Management System) that are designed for someone who does not have any computer expertise,” she told Today’s Catholic. “The webmasters can be parish staff, volunteers in the parish or even ‘Father.’”

Pecoraro said a parish can choose to start from a template or they can opt for a custom design, “whatever they feel they need to represent their parish community,” she noted.

“Each site is personalized by a designer, with their images and logos to match the parish colors,” Pecoraro added. “The parish is always in control of the content on the pages of the site and can update it anytime.”

She noted, “The Faith in Action Parish Websites come preloaded with 30-plus pages about the Catholic faith — and was reviewed by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and given a ‘nihil obstat’ and the structure of the sites are built on best practices for websites including the most common information needed for a parish.”

All the parish needs to do is add their personal updates such as Mass times, calendar events, staff contacts, parish photo galleries and other information. The parishes can share website content on social media, and the public can share their favorite pages and events broadening the reach of the parish beyond just their parishioners.

There is also a form builder in the system so a parish can build as many forms as they need for registrations, religious education, volunteers and forms can also be built to accept payment with the registration. “OSV’s Online Giving system is the perfect connector for accepting these payments,” Pecoraro said.

“Our Sunday Visitor (OSV) takes content one step further,” she added, “with content from our Publishing Division automatically updating with topics like ‘Pope Francis Daily’ reflection, daily Mass readings, Faith in Action stories of people living the faith, family life and Catholic News and Prospective articles.”

And OSV offers technical support. Pecoraro said, “The parish will have training in the system from one of our digital specialists, access to a designer for personalization of the site then unlimited access to our technical support team when they need help. There is a built-in user guide but we have such a great relationship with our customers they like to call for the one-on-one experience.”

Scot Landry, who wrote the book “Transforming Parish Communications” and is the Secretary of Catholic Media for the Boston Archdiocese, lead a research study on best practices of parish websites. “We adopted those finding as the basis of our Faith in Action Websites,” Pecoraro said.

Immaculate Conception Parish in Auburn utilizes the Faith in Action Website. Tim Speer, the IT manager at the parish, said, “From a tech perspective, I liked the flexibility and power the template tools provided, along with their ease of use that allows parish staff to do regular content updates themselves.”

“The layout of the website is much more intuitive and attractive than anything we had used previously,” Speer said. “People who visit our website can find the information they are looking for quickly — easy access to bulletins, a calendar of parish events, the basic teachings of our Church, Mass times, online giving. It’s our hope that all these tools draw them closer to our community of faith and to Christ.”

“We liked how well the templates were designed,” he noted. “Putting our site together was really easy and looks great. Being able to easily overhaul our website without investing huge amounts of money, time and energy was a motivator for us to take the plunge.”

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