Catholics engage in the digital age
|Eighty-two-year-old lifelong learner Barbara Gillis.|
By Dan McAloon
For Christians, the digital communication revolution poses questions about how to engage and communicate The Good News across cyberspace.
In his message for the World Day of Communications, Pope Benedict XVI spoke directly to the digital phenomenon, describing our time as embroiled in “a vast cultural transformation”. The new technologies, wrote the Pope, “are changing the way we communicate and communication itself.”
Interactive media, said the Pope, offer “a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.”
The theme of the recent national Catholic Media Congress held in Sydney - Communicating the Word: Timeless Messages, New Media - points to the many challenges ahead.
As Bishop David Walker of Broken Bay Diocese advised participants, whenever one goes on mission in the new media “context is key”. The Internet has no rules on good behaviour, nor checks on truthfulness. A Google search, for example, may return as much misinformation as it does fact. In this raw environment communicating and receiving the revelation of Christ in our world demands authentic source material as much as faith.
“Where we communicate our knowledge, it will be evaluated,” Bishop Walker said.
“Secondly, our faith must proclaim from our experience. We must articulate from our own faith and draw out faith from other people. What defines a Catholic organisation or institute? I believe it is a critical mass of Catholics that defines it.”
Online studies providing answers to lifelong questions
Articulating Christian knowledge and wisdom, and sharing it with people who are seeking the scriptural truths has characterised the work of The Broken Bay Institute (BBI) in its 10-year life.
In that time BBI has evolved from a Catholic correspondence college into a leading Australian online theological provider. Translating Christian teachings into courses especially designed for online learning defines BBI as a “digital native”.
Besides facilitating national E-conferences like the upcoming Vatican II – An Event of Grace* in October, BBI is an online Catholic education resource tailor-made for the digital age. Its short adult faith courses and its University of Newcastle affiliated degree courses are specially designed by academics for online learners at every level of entry.
For people wishing to deepen their faith formation, BBI’s short Adult Faith Online (AFO) courses are excellent resources, according to Marita Winters, the Director of the Catholic Enquiry Centre in Sydney. Marita said since the Enquiry Centre began advertising itself on Internet sites like Facebook and Google new inquiries have leapt to around 100 a month.
“We meet people who are at the very beginning of their faith journey,” Marita said.
“And for those who want to go deeper into faith formation, who are asking ‘Where to from here?’, we would recommend BBI’s Adult Faith Online series. They are great resources and very accessible.”
The accessibility of the AFO courses is something that appeals to Barbara Gillis, too. This 82-year-old grandmother and retired TAFE teacher is currently doing the AFO course Word of the Lord - Introducing the Scriptures from the convenience of her Normanhurst home.
The Internet, said Barbara “is my favourite medium for learning these days.”
Barbara said online faith studies keep her mentally active, as well as providing her with answers to questions she’s been pondering for years.
“I like doing the work when I want to without the pressures of deadlines or exams, of being able to pace myself and go off on research tangents.”
Why does she want to study theology at her age?
“I’m not one of those people who says ‘don’t disturb my beliefs’, I think it’s a natural process the older you get to want to go more in depth into one’s spirituality and beliefs,” Barbara said.
“Every one of us wants to know why we are here, to know the face of God.”
* The Insitute For Mission, the Parramatta Diocesan Centre for Catholic Adult Faith Formation, will act as an e-site for the Vatican II – An Event of Grace e-Conference on Wednesday 10 October from 10am to 3pm at 1-5 Marion Street Blacktown.
For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about the October e-Conference at the BBI site
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