Blogs, Facebook help Church workers' outreach

HONG KONG, July 3, 2009--New communication technologies such as Facebook and blogs can be a powerful way for the Church to reach out to others, say priests and nuns at a recent workshop.

The Church has explicitly said that the computer is "truly a gift to humanity" but people, especially the youth, should pay attention to how to utilize this gift, said vicar general Father Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, chairperson of the Catholic Board of Communications.

Father Yeung was opening speaker at the local Church's celebration of the 43rd World Communications Day, held at the Holy Spirit Seminary on June 26.

The theme of the event was "New Technologies, New Relationships, New Culture" and was co-hosted by the Catholic Social Communications Office, the diocesan Chinese weekly "Kung Kao Po" and the Diocesan Audio-Visual Centre.

About 40 Catholic media workers attended the event.

Father Yeung told them that computers have created fundamental shifts in patterns of human relationships, culture and communication. He said that although there are harmful aspects to the new technologies, the Internet should not be regarded as a "monster."

Father Yeung believes that people these days face spiritual emptiness and loneliness, and religious groups can use the Internet to reach out spiritually to people and to evangelize.

Later in the program, John Fung, an IT resource center director and catechist, said the Internet is "no more a tool but a 'country' with a huge population of 1.6 billion" worldwide.

"For our evangelization mission today, we should cast out into the deep and the Net is the deepest place that we can reach into," said Fung.

Parish priest Father Philip Chan Tak-hung told the gathering that the aim of his Facebook page is to "consolidate the supporters of God" and to reach out and spread Church information to Catholics who do not read "Kung Kao Po."

Father Chan recently uploaded articles on the Year for Priests for his 629 "friends" on Facebook.

Salesian Sister Amy Lim, who teaches Bible and English in high school, shared how Church people's use of new technologies can help dispel their image of being fuddy duddy. She said her students used to think of nuns as "mysterious, high up and not in touch with reality."

The nun said that her students at first thought it was "funny" that their teachers had Facebook accounts and that it was "super funny" when they knew she had one. However, she said the Internet has helped her relate better to her students.

Sister Sania Ho of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, shared that she uses her blog to give people insights into what her consecrated life means and to attract those who may have a religious vocation.

Even her former classmates from schooldays are curious as to what her daily routine is like. Some even have questions such as whether she eats rice, and whether, as a nun, she can go shopping, she said.

Father Michael Tham Hon-wai, who was ordained last year, said he has started to use the Internet to promote Church activities, and that it has been hugely successful. The priest, who also uses Facebook, said one announcement he posted on the Internet on a church activity attracted more than 100 participants when he initially expected only 30-40.

Commenting on the speakers' sharings, Doris Law, a TV reporter, told UCA News she supports the idea of priests and nuns keeping up with the times and using the Internet to evangelize.

She said although it is not easy for her to evangelize at work, nevertheless she brings Catholic values to bear when reporting, especially on issues relating to justice and peace. (UCAN)

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