What do hobbits, angels, and wizards have in common? What might it sound like if a Wookie from Star Wars had a conversation with a Catholic? How can superheroes help you discover your vocation? You can find the answers to these questions in Fr. Roderick Vonhogen’s book, Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer.
I met Fr. Roderick this past weekend at the Catholic New Media Conference in Boston. As you’ll find out when you read his book, he has a passion for Star Wars that comes close to his passion for the Catholic faith, and he willingly obliged fans with some light-saber play during a book signing at the conference.
The CNMC focuses on ways Catholic parishes, dioceses, and the general community share information and ideas using all forms of current media. The Millennial generation was well represented at the conference, along with a wide range of other age groups, and it was great to see their enthusiasm, knowledge, and versatility being used in service to the Church.
I skipped the workshop on “How to be a new media missionary” in favor of the one given by George Martell of the Catholic Pilot on “How to improve your digital photography,” thinking I’d have a better chance at success in the latter area than in the former. Martell emphasized that because we have evolved into such a visually oriented culture, it is critical to use good, strong images to tell your story, sell your message, or engage your readers in any form of printed media.
Fr. Roderick and Jeff Young, known as “The Catholic Foodie,” gave a presentation titled, “How to Reach People with Internet Audio” in which they covered podcasts, radio shows, and other forms of aural communication. I’ve always been crazy about radio, and it was good to hear how, for many people, audio communication is still a viable and thriving medium.
Finally, Pat Padley’s workshop on “How to reach the mobile generation” emphasized the fact that we—the Church—have to “sell” our brand like any other corporation in order to stay engaged with our members. After all, noted Padley, the Catholic Church is one of the largest corporations in the world, with its 1.2 billion members. To do this effectively, we must go to where people are, and that means using social media to its fullest potential.
Lest you think faith and technology are strange bedfellows, Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications at the Vatican, assured us in his keynote address that Pope Francis has embraced the social media efforts started by his predecessors.
Back to Fr. Roderick. Geekpriest is a great story not only about a priest with a love for the fantastical, but also a devoted and innovative messenger of the faith. Along the way you’ll find out a good deal about how technology and social media are bringing the Church in tune with the times, not only from the bottom up but from the top down.
Photos: M.C. Kendzia