Under the direction of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archdiocese of Washington has expanded its evangelization efforts to make more and better use of digital media and social media platforms.
“Cardinal Wuerl has always understood the power of media to evangelize and teach the faith, and he’s adopted and adapted to the evolving communications environment,” said Edward McFadden, secretary for communications for the Archdiocese of Washington.
The archdiocese employs a variety of media platforms to follow what Cardinal Wuerl said in a January 2013 talk at The Catholic University of America is the call of every Catholic: “an ongoing catechesis of every believer, ongoing outreach to those who have never genuinely heard of Jesus, and re-evangelization to those who have simply fallen away from the Church and the practice of faith…. (and) an enthusiastic willingness to share the faith with a society greatly in need of it.”
In addition to the Catholic Standard newspaper, and its Spanish-language sister publication El Pregonero, the archdiocese ‘s communications outreach includes an updated website and an increased use of podcasts, videos and social media tools such as a CapitalCatholic app; Facebook and Twitter accounts; Instagram; Pinterest; Google+Vine and others.
Cardinal Wuerls’ understanding of the importance of the media in communicating the message of the Church, McFadden said, “goes back to his days as bishop of Pittsburgh, where he had a regular TV show.”
“Pastorally, he likes the immediacy of social media and video to connect with the Church of Washington, so we were one of the first dioceses in the country to adopt Facebook Live for His Eminence’s Masses and events,” McFadden added.
Susan Timoney, secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington, noted that “Cardinal Wuerl has responded creatively and successfully to the call of the New Evangelization to use different languages and methods.”
“We make heavy use of media tools and this is also something for which Pope John Paul II called for – preaching the Gospel with new methods,” Timoney said. “Cardinal Wuerl has always embraced the use of TV and radio for reaching and preaching and so he has been quick also to make use of digital media.”
Cardinal Wuerl’s use of the new media to catechize and evangelize shows “he simply desires that we reach out … through any means necessary – radio advertisements, digital ads, advertising on the side of buses and of course, personal invitation,” said Jonathan Lewis, director of Evangelization, Youth and Young Adult Initiatives for the Archdiocese of Washington.
“Cardinal Wuerl also recognizes that innovation in the work of evangelization is constantly changing as we discern each year how to inculturate the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our contemporary world,” Lewis said. “The Cardinal has always been supportive of the new ideas and new methods of communication to share the Good News, especially using the breadth of social and digital medias.”
Five years ago, Cardinal Wuerl created the Secretariat for Communications to “ensure our many audiences can read, listen, view and share and use the tools and information our archdiocese provides that allow so many to experience the faith,” McFadden said. “So our mission and message doesn’t change; we’re just adding new tools that help us reach the many audiences we need and want to reach.”
The Archdiocese of Washington has also expanded its efforts in audio and video outreach. The archdiocesan Youtube channel – www.youtube.com/user/WashArchdiocese – has about 2,500 subscribers and has received more than 600,000 channel views.
“We are posting more short-form videos that are more digestible in the increasingly mobile world we are living in,” McFadden said.
Cardinal Wuerl once said that as a bishop, he has the special responsibility to “teach, teach and teach” so that people apply their faith to everyday life.
His column in the Catholic Standard is titled, “The Teaching of Christ,” which is also the title of the best-selling adult catechism that he edited. The teaching of Christ passed down through the ages in the Catholic Church is the foundation of Cardinal Wuerl’s own teaching, which include recent books on living the faith in today’s world, the Mass, the Creed, the sacraments, Catholic marriage, and martyrs through the centuries and in contemporary times.
His pastoral letters as archbishop of Washington have examined Catholic education, sharing the faith, Catholic identity, the role of the Church, and God’s mercy found in the sacrament of Confession.
As a teacher of the faith, he preaches from the pulpit of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle and during Masses at parishes throughout the archdiocese. His teaching as archbishop of Washington has appeared in television and radio spots, in blogs and e-letters, and in social media and videos.
Cardinal Wuerl’s “digital messaging” also includes a regular blog and his own Twitter account.
Writing in his very first blog almost five years ago, Cardinal Wuerl wrote, “My hope is that in this digital world we will have an opportunity, as Pope Benedict XVI once said, ‘to meet each other beyond the confines of space’ in a way that we might create ‘an entirely new world of potential friendships.’ It is in that context that I welcome you.”
“Cardinal Wuerl understands that ‘traditional media’ are still important components, particularly to reach the homebound, so you still hear our messages on the radio and we still air the weekly Mass for those unable to attend in their parish,” McFadden said. “In all these ways Cardinal Wuerl is sharing the Good News and encouraging us to do the same, whether on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter or in the office over coffee.”