When Pope Benedict XVI declared Oct. 11, 2012 the beginning of a Year of Faith for the worldwide community of Catholic faithful, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend took heed. Director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry Cindy Black, along with Associate Director of Youth Ministry Megan Swaim, formerly Megan Oberhausen, and Program Assistant Emily Barnes, formerly Emily Burman, put their heads together at the request of Mary Glowaski, division director and Secretariat for Evangelization and Special Ministries, and devised a way to not only celebrate the Year of Faith in the diocese, but use new media and technology as well.
The My Year of Faith app was created by Patrick Leinen and Little iApps, the group that created the Confession App, and went live on Oct. 11, offering a customizable faith formation resource for Catholics and others across the globe. It is available for iPhone and Android mobile device users and offers features that lead to a deeper understanding of the faith, an increased prayer life and reflections from nationally known bloggers and writers. Swaim calls it, “putting out into the digital deep.” Those without Smartphones can follow the blog at www.myyearoffaith.com.
Swaim reports that there are two major components to the app.
“The first is the blog reader, which allows users to access the posts right from their phone,” she says. “The second is a calendar, which provides challenges that correspond to the blog posts that helps users grow in their faith everyday through prayer, reading and action.”
In this era of the New Evangelization set forth by Blessed Pope John Paul II, Black says this app encourages social media sharing by making it easy to like and share of Facebook and Twitter.
“There are interactive web challenges that encourage people to put their faith in action and then share with others,” Black says.
So, who is using the app and blog? Black says, “Many young adults from our diocese who live in other areas of the country have told me they follow it and love that their home diocese created such a useful evangelizing tool that they can easily share with people close to them.”
She adds, “Just last week at our Small Christian Community meeting, a man in our group said that he bought the app, reads it daily and suggests it to others as a great resource to grow in faith.”
But that’s not the end of the use. Barnes reports that in the first week the app had hits from over 30 countries. “Now,” she says, “we’ve reached all 50 states and 122 different countries. Between the blog and the app, we have reached about 20,000 unique readers with approximately 3,000 app users.”
Mike O’Connell, the high school youth minister at Holy Spirit Parish at Geist in the Indianapolis area says he heard about the app through friends and Facebook, and has read it every day.
“I think it is a great idea and really answered the pope’s call to engage the world through social media,” reports O’Connell. “The writers are excellent and give great insight. Plus it is a quick and easy thing to do to increase and deepen my faith.”
O’Connell has shared the app with his youth group and says he finds the topics enjoyable.
Jessy Kirkwood, middle school religion teacher in Crescent Springs, Ky., and parishioner at St. Barbara Parish in the Diocese of Covington, learned about the app on Facebook and says, “I am a junior high religion teacher and am very in love with my Catholic faith. For me to have a consistent and solid go-to every day to help form and mold me into a better instrument of faith is incredibly awesome.”
Reading every day reminds Kirkwood that she is part of the apostolic Church.
She says of the app, “I could not be happier with how My Year of Faith applies both the liturgical calendar events and our worldly events to lead us and guide us on our faith journeys.”
Kirkwood finds the content so inspiring that she reads posts to her students and likes to share especially meaningful posts on her Facebook page.
She says, “I cannot thank the Diocese of Fort Wayne- South Bend enough for this incredible opportunity to be a part of the Catholic Church in this way. They most certainly saw potential for this Year of Faith and have truly made it beautiful.”
Black says the app and blog use has exceeded her expectations “in reach and enthusiasm from others in blogosphere.”
She relates, “We cannot know the impact it may have in the hearts of people who read posts or watch video posts. Someone may read an excerpt from the catechism and be moved to deeper faith. Someone else may be open to the Catholic faith because a friend shares a post on the sacraments.”
Swaim reminds users, that “in the coming months, we will be featuring even more incredible authors, bloggers, and speakers. It’s an all-star cast. We can’t wait to see how it continues to grow and bear fruit in the coming months.”
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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