Laymen have a place in religious conversation

DeWayne Bartels

When an estimated 600 to 800 Catholic women descend on East Peoria Saturday for the Behold Conference social media will be an integral part of the discussions taking place.

Twitter, Facebook and blogging will be thrust before women who may not know much about these new media. They will get an introduction to the power of words and why their words are needed to spread the Word.

But, the idea that online content must be rich will also be communicated.

Pope Benedict XVI in his World Communications Day message said, “Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”

Those words resonate with Nancy Piccione who is heading up the social media portion of the conference. The Metamora woman said social media will be a major part of the conference because it is such a new form of communication.

“When it comes to social media even young people are babies,” she said. “For older people we’re social media immigrants.”

Piccione said she wants to make blogging feel like a natural activity for Catholic women.

“In ancient times women met at the water well,” she said. “Blogging allows women to connect with each other no matter where they are.”

She said when people start a blog they will find readers and blog readership is growing.

The potential for blogs is enormous, Piccione said, even for religious laymen.

“I’m not a religion expert. I have a blog,” Piccione said.

“My husband, Joe, is an theologian. I joke though who’s the expert and who’s the blogger? It’s about sharing faith, inspiring others and reaching out to people.”

Piccione said one does not have to be a religion expert to accomplish those goals.

“We can all share,” she said. “You don’t have to be a reporter to be a good blogger. You just have to be a good writer and find your voice.”

On Catholic Tech Talk, a blog, Clare Zajicek, the Interactive Media Marketing Specialist for Liturgical Publications, said, “A message I’m not hearing at these conferences reflects what the Pope is telling us, ‘Let’s spend some time in prayer and then discuss what kind of content will remind people about the sacramental importance of Holy Eucharist. What messaging can we post on our sites that will invite people to come celebrate with us?’

“Sure you can post videos and podcasts of last week’s homily, but does that draw people in to the sacrament?

“If you give your visitors too much content to look at online, they may feel like there’s no reason to show up on Sunday ... There may be over 800 million users on Facebook, but there are 1.1 billion Catholics. We’re already a part of the most engaged social network in the world.”

Piccione said while social media is growing nationwide there are few priests in the local Catholic community utilizing this communication tool.

“There’s not a void, but there’s always room for more,” Piccione said.