Communications experts called on Church leaders to provide “a deeper and energizing sense of the faith,” especially during the pandemic.
In an online forum titled “The Digital Pastor Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic” on November 6, Church communicators were reminded about the use of new technology in evangelization.
More than providing content, the Church’s response to the global health crisis should be one that builds a “sense of community,” said Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, director of Dayton University’s Institute of Pastoral Initiatives.
The missionary Helper of the Sacred Heart nun said technology savvy youth and “advanced-in-age wisdom” groups should come together to discover new ways of “being Church” in the “new missionary context.”
Jesuit priest Paul Soukup of Santa Clara University in the United States said digital pastors should be open to ideas and be willing to listen, especially to the people they serve.
Technological competencies as well as solid grounding on doctrine are needed, he said, but pastors must also “test and try” what could work in terms of pastoring and providing care online.
Father Soukup, communications consultant of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, said that nurturing faith, particularly in crisis situations, is “important.”
Digital pastors should offer creative inputs for the “senses,” such hearing, because the same inputs will evolve into stories of one’s experience of God.
People’s identities take shape through socialization, he said, adding that this makes the digital pastor’s role more crucial in forming and nurturing faith.
Dr. Chainarong Monthienvichienchai of Saint John’s University in Thailand said that moving on to a post-pandemic era, priests should be able to bring all their learnings during the health crisis.
“We should continue using the wonders of modern technology in our synodal Church,” said the chancellor of Thailand’s leading Catholic institution who is also founding member of LiCAS.news.
He said making use of new technology will result in an even “deeper communion for our mission in the world.”
The communications experts agreed that the pandemic brought about a stronger yearning for the divine and the sacred.
Meanwhile, Bernard Canaberal, head of the Catholic media network Signis in the Philippines, said Church media should broadcast content mirroring people’s felt needs and situations.
Mary Erika Bolanos, a senior high school principal in the Philippines, said “being Church” in the age of the pandemic and social media “goes beyond the institution or the building.”
She stressed the need of new skills for pastors to carve a digital presence that is shaped by encounters with the “Good Shepherd.”
The webinar, which was organized by the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and the Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communication, was attended by close to 200 members of the clergy, religious educators and Church social communication directors. – with a report from Anthony Roman