Most Americans do not go a day without posting, tweeting or chatting online, and a group of U.S. bishops and bloggers recently met to discuss this unique opportunity for evangelization through social media.
“(Archbishop) Fulton Sheen would give his right arm to have the tools we have today,” Brandon Vogt, a Catholic blogger and author, said in a Catholic News Service article, referencing the television and radio preacher of the 1950s.
A new study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, “Catholic New Media Use in the United States, 2012,” showed that 62 percent of adult U.S. Catholics, representing an estimated 36.2 million people, have a profile on Facebook. 58 percent of Catholics age 30 and under share content such as pictures, articles and comments at least once a week on social media, and nearly a third said they would like their pastors and bishops to blog.
While Catholics are accustomed to seeing their friends post on Facebook and their favorite celebrities tweet regularly on Twitter, it appears that many Catholics, especially younger Catholics, look to connect with their spiritual leaders in the digital world.
Mary DeTurris Poust, the author of her own blog, “Not Strictly Spiritual,” summed up the results to Catholic News Service: “Facebook is the new parish hall…if they don’t find it in our virtual walls, they will find it elsewhere,” she said.
Many Catholic leaders have already embraced social media and the power that resides within its digital framework. This May CatholicMatch blogger Lisa Duffy wrote about Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and his Twitter debut as @CardinalDolan. He now has nearly 60,000 followers, and his tweets range from serious and thought-provoking to goofy and light-hearted.
A Facebook post or even a faith-based blog like “Faith, Hope and Love” can never replace the community found in a church sanctuary, the healing power of a confessional or the miracle of the Eucharist, but social media can be another avenue that we learn, connect and grow in faith. Evangelization can happen anywhere – we have Mr. Zuckerberg to thank partially for that.