February 8, 2022 // Diocese
St. Thérèse Little Flower embraces technology to support spiritual life
Today, an individual’s real life and digital presence are not exactly clear-cut, but entwined. It seems with each year, technology becomes more prevalent in one’s daily life. Take for a few examples: communications, wearable devices, social platforms and streaming media. In practice, Meta/Facebook and FaceTime are used to connect with one’s community; Peacock, Netflix and Hulu are a sliver of a vast list of streaming media available on-demand for consumption. One will find the younger generations between 10-25 years old, most often called “Gen-Z,” interact with real-time gaming applications, or apps, as a continuation of conversations with their friends or relatives.
And yet with these neat digital products, where can one continue to seek God? In the vast open space of the internet, where can one digitally imprint synodality and live the Gospel? Where in this digital space can one find resources that continue to build dialogue between generations?
Parish communities are anchors which expound on effective paths to live in communion, participation and mission to glorify the Lord. South Bend’s St. Thérèse Little Flower Catholic Church leaders have created channels where parishioners can walk together toward Jesus and center lifestyles in Christ.
Households, a new activity which began November 2021, are medium-sized intentional communities of parishioners and their families gathered under a particular charism and united under a community covenant. These communities gather biweekly and invite all who are Catholic, non-Catholic and anyone curious about Jesus to come. Households was established with the intent to help members grow in their relationship with Jesus together as a parish. And Little Flower parish has found much success with the three household charisms established: House of Praise, Rooted in Love and Jireh (Abundance). The motto of a household night is: “Be loved and be fed.” So how do parish leaders align fellow parishioners in the digital frontier?
St. Thérèse Church supports a parishioner’s pilgrimage with Christ in the digital space by promoting Hallow, a Catholic technology product. Like Households, Hallow’s mission is to serve as a vetted digital community and resource for Catholic meditation and prayer. Hallow is a growing technology product where the product’s co-founders, Alex Jones, Alessandro diSanto and Erich Kerekes hope for all people to experience a deeper spiritual connection to God. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has lauded the program, stating, “Hallow is an excellent resource for people searching for deeper spiritual lives, especially the younger generation of Catholics today. It helps make clear that a relationship with God is and can be extremely personal and can be a great source of peace, joy and strength.”
A survey was conducted at St. Thérèse asking what parishioners seek in Catholic technology and whether they had heard about Hallow. Responses showed users would seek out an app if: the app would aid in daily prayer and Bible readings, it had approved Catholic content for their children, and if it can introduce users to other Catholics. Two-thirds of responses showed that parishioners had heard about Hallow. One parishioner shared that she was drawn to Hallow because of how beautiful and modern it looked for a Catholic app.
Hallow appears to serve what St. Thérèse parishioners would seek in a Catholic app. Hallow publishes content developed by Church leaders and musicians and captivates users with the app’s fresh digital illustrations. Some content featured are the “Bible in a Year” podcast with Father Mike Schmitz; “Psalms with Bishop Barron;” community prayer novenas and a recent release of Hallow Kids, aimed at helping parents guide their children to grow in their spiritual lives.
The Hallow app also has a platform to engage an active digital community through “Hallow Heralds.” Hallow Heralds is a global network developed by Bryan Enriquez, who serves as the head of user support at Hallow. This network has more than 1,200 members across the globe and aims, in practice, to fulfill the Catholic social teaching theme of family, community and participation. Hallow Heralds builds community through online activity using a virtual community engine, Mighty Networks, which allows for users to interact in real-time directly from their mobile device or computer. It openly invites enthusiastic Hallow users to participate in community through prayer intentions, trivia and discussion.
Additionally, Hallow includes a feature in which users can create private prayer groups to invite their network to pray together. As a differentiating factor, members of a prayer group can choose to make their journal entries public for other members to read. Hallow’s content is both inclusive and exclusive. Some parts of Hallow are available at no monetary cost, while other content can be streamed and made available offline at a monthly or yearly premium.
Hallow is a rare Catholic technology app that commissions an individual to continue in an interactive and prayerful life across devices in the digital space. With this in mind, it prompts some questions: How does Catholic technology remove isolation from individuals who seek Jesus? How does Catholic technology improve a parish’s digital imprint to strengthen the Christian faith? What fruits can grow if digital communities like Hallow Heralds can be connected to in-person parish communities? What fruits grow when in-person communities connect with digital communities like Hallow Heralds? What are potential adverse effects, if any, where Catholic technology can inhibit interactions between in-person parish communities?
Concrete conclusions inspire a review of existing data which observes internet usage across the U.S. Pew Research Center reports 98% of adults who are 50 years old or younger in the U.S. actively use the internet. And more than eight out of 10 adults are online daily. According to the Global Web Index, Gen-Z alone spends more than 50% of their time online per day. With these statistics and trajectories in mind, what is the call to action to address shifts in dialogue between generations? What connections can be formed for generations who have assumed technology, Gen-Z, with generations where television was the new technology, such as the Baby Boomer era? In what ways can Catholic technology products like Hallow help build up dialogue and set a Christian imprint in today’s digital space?
As the years pass, it will become more difficult to shy away from highly connected communications that intersect both real and online spaces. Faithful Catholics can rely on parish leaders and communities to examine and establish digital spaces, such as St. Thérèse Parish has done, so that all can live the Gospel with Jesus in the online frontier.
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