Friday, February 26, 2010

The Catholic Church Goes High-Tech?

The Catholic Church isn't exactly known for being high-tech, but this wasn't always so.  In fact, if you study a bit, you will find the Catholic Church (her members to be more precise) is responsible for some amazing advancements in technology. For example, Catholics have:
  • started the Western codes of law.
  • invented the university
  • developed the basis of free-market economics
  • founded modern science.
This is just the beginning of the list.  So, to say the Church is not high-tech, isn't accurate (to read more on the history of the Church on this topic, I recommend "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" by Thomas Woods).  But, to say we aren't keeping up with technological advances in our Church today is, in many ways, accurate. It isn't because of an aversion to technology however.  Rather, I believe, it is because we haven't done a good enough job of being proactive in engaging our culture with technology and using it to our benefit.

Yet, in some areas of the Church, we have done a good job (not excellent). I believe St. Mary's is one example of the Church doing a good job incorporating technology into the lives of the faithful. I talked yesterday to a woman who is doing a presentation at a conference on "new media". She sent out dozens of emails all over North America asking for examples of parishes who are doing a good job incorporating technology into the daily life of their parishes.  She got many responses, but only one example was given - St. Mary's Catholic Center.

I thought I might share some of the examples of what St. Mary's is doing to incorporate technology.
  • Our website, like most parish websites, was a problem when I got here.  While we had a very dedicated webmaster who did a good job, he was limited in time.  Thus, our website quickly became outdated and was underutilized.  We decided to partner with eCatholicChurches.com (full disclosure - the owner is an Aggie Catholic). This allowed us to have a good looking, easy to use website where we could have several administrators on staff and dozens of contributers.  This meant a huge website with updated info.  Just what we needed.
  • We have online liturgy scheduling software that was created from the ground up.  Trying to schedule dozens of volunteers at dozens of masses every week isn't easy (especially with college students).  This program gives us the ability to manage all the people, times, no-shows, etc. that go along with a big parish like ours.
  • Facebook is huge.  We had to have a presence, and little did we know how it would explode on us.  In less than 1 12/ years we have added thousands of fans. Check out St. Mary's Catholic Center on Facebook
  • Another problem we face is getting registration from our students.  We partnered with another technology company, Flocknote, to solve this problem. I wrote a longer post last year about our efforts at getting students to text us their information and then communicating to them in various ways. This is just cool - check it out.
  • Holy Vision - this is a closed circuit broadcast of our weekend masses that is shown on a high-def 52" TV in our chapel, for those who can't fit into our church (talk about a good problem to have).
  • In the next week or so, I will roll out our new library search feature, which will make our library searchable on the internet.  Once it comes online, you can find it here.
  • Kerygma Studios - dedicated media space to roll out video and audio products.
  • Other initiatives you may already know about:
Some of the ideas we are bantering about include:

  • Setting up TV monitors in strategic locations throughout our buildings - instead of print media and flyers.
  • More podcasts, video, etc.
  • Expanding the registration features.
  • Updating our network, hardware, and software.
  • God only knows - I just hope he tells us soon, because we are about to form a new Technology committee.

Technology is a gift. I hope more Catholic parishes, ministries, apostolates, and groups will start to think proactively.

Pray for St. Mary's please.

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