The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is answering Pope Benedict XVI’s call to use new media and technology, providing a blog and mobile app (available for iPhone and Android mobile device users) as part of an exciting faith-building initiative.
This app, which went live Oct. 11, is titled “My Year of Faith” and can be a daily, customizable resource for users. It includes many features that lead to a deeper understanding of the faith, an increased prayer life, and reflections and thoughts from nationally known bloggers and writers — all with daily content updates.
The list of contributors is a “who’s who in Catholic social media” including blogger Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com, popular Catholic authors and speakers like Dr. Greg Popcak, as well as local voices, like Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. Those who do not have smartphones can follow the blog at www.myyearoffaith.com.
According to Megan Oberhausen of the Secretariat for Evangelization and Special Ministries, the new media outreach serves two purposes.
“The first is catechesis,” says Oberhausen, “by offering a short reading every day to help people know and love their faith more deeply.”
“The second is evangelization, by helping Catholics share their faith with joy and enthusiasm and providing a place where others can encounter the love of Jesus Christ and the light and hope of the Gospel,” she adds. “ It’s all about leading people to Jesus.”
Oberhausen serves as the point person for the project, which is a secretariat-wide endeavor. She approached Patrick Leinen and Little i Apps (the group that created the Confession App) about creating an app for the Year of Faith. Within a few months they developed technology to provide insightful writings from the Catholic community and allow users to interact socially while providing suggestions to foster spiritual growth.
“We loved the idea of reaching out to the larger Catholic community from our local diocese,” says Leinen. “We feel it is an incredible new approach that embraces the Church’s call for improved social media. What the bishop is doing is really cutting edge and incredible.”
Others are excited about contributing to the new app.
“As we anticipate the potential for personal renewal of faith and the impact this year will have upon our Church, I believe that a tool like this app will be the perfect spiritual companion for families like mine,” says Hendey. “The content will be instructive for Catholics, but will also provide us with the tools and motivation to share our faith with our loved ones and friends. In short, the Year of Faith will help us better know and more effectively share the riches of the Catholic Church. I can’t wait to begin using it!”
Oberhausen says she is most excited about the monthly interactive Web challenges.
“For example, in December, we have a post on the history of the crèche or Nativity scene,” Oberhausen explains. “At the end of the post, we’ll ask our readers and followers to take a photo of their family’s Nativity scene and post to Facebook or Twitter with a link to the post. If you’re using the mobile app, you can do this right from your phone. It’s a fun little challenge, but it also is a way to practice the New Evangelization.”
“And if all our readers and followers are doing the challenge, imagine how many people will encounter those photos and links that day,” Oberhausen emphasizes. “It offers an opportunity for millions of people to see — and maybe check out — the blog. After that, it’s up to the Holy Spirit. But we’ve done our part. Each of us, in a real way, can share Jesus Christ through social media. And that’s the natural result of catechesis; after encountering Jesus Christ, how can we not be moved to share?”
While the app is geared toward evangelization for all ages, diocesan Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry Cindy Black says the project is especially important for reaching youth and young adults and the ripple effect could be far-reaching.
“Young people have access to people that we do not, and thus are key in evangelizing their friends,” says Black. “When teens and college students witness to the joy of living their Catholic faith, it naturally attracts others who long for joy and peace. That is the most exciting thing — to think about the potential when putting out into the digital deep. It’s possible that a college student could post something on Facebook with a link and his or her friends across the country would read it and share and, it could spider around the world!”
Pope Benedict XVI says, “Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea, facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for 2,000 years.”
Oberhausen says that’s been her team’s motto throughout development of the app, especially when they felt overwhelmed by the scope of the project.
“Of course, the learning curve on a project like this is steep,” admits Oberhausen, “but all along the way the Lord made it clear that this was His will and He was going to provide. So what choice did we have but to step out in faith? In a way, for us, this last year has really been a ‘year of faith’ and now we’re getting to start celebrating the real thing with everyone else!”
The “My Year of Faith” app costs 99-cents and is available for iOS and Android. That includes tablets such as iPad and the Kindle Fire.
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