VIDEO: My Catholic Story – World Youth Day

We all need inspiration in our lives, and one of the ways that God blesses us is through each other and our stories of faith.

As a result, I’m please to be part of a team (that also includes Sharon Leyne) in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, producing a series of short videos entitled My Catholic Story.

Just in time for Lent, check out and share this wonderful story from Heather:

Also see our other videos in the series:

  • Shawna: Healing After Abortion
  • Dianne: Healing
  • Cary: Relationship and Fatherhood

    New Video – Autotune the Church!

    Here it is! Pope Francis in a 2 Unlimited parody – “Are You Ready?”

    I had way too much fun with this! It’s an idea I’ve had since I heard Pope Francis speaking in English in South Korea in August, 2014, and comes from Clark Jaman’s incredible video series, Autotune the Church (YouTube).

    Are you ready to say yes?

    It is good for us to be here!
    We can almost feel
    the glory of Jesus in our midst
    in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    He makes all things new,
    makes his glory shine in you
    He calls you and me to rise!
    Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

    Christ is knocking at the door
    of your heart, of my heart.
    The Spirit of Jesus can bring new life
    to your heart, to my heart.
    Jesus rose from the dead;
    He has the words of eternal life.
    He calls you and me to rise!
    Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

    You are called to go forth
    and bear witness to the gospel.
    Dear young friends, go forth
    and bear witness to the gospel.
    His glory shines in you;
    the Lord is counting on you.
    He calls you and me to rise!
    Are you ready, ready, ready to say yes?

    Catholic New Media Conference 2013 – Boston


    Saskatchewan group, plus Fr. Roderick Vonhögen

    Saskatchewan group, plus Fr. Roderick Vonhögen

    This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) in Boston. I was one of four from Saskatchewan who made the trip. It was a rather loooong trip but it still blows my mind how we can begin the day in one location and end the day roughly 3600km away.

    Replica of the Eleanor

    Replica of the Eleanor

    The long travel was completely worth it. We left on Thursday, Oct. 17, and the bulk of the conference was on Oct. 19-20. We used the Friday to tour around Boston, which is a beautiful city, steeped in American history. It was the location of the famous Boston Tea Party, and today the site contains a museum and replicas of the ships from the original event. One could also buy tea and souvenirs, although I neglected to find out if they charge tax for tea nowadays… (They did charge taxes for all the other beverages I had during the weekend!)

    View from the Boston Harbour Trail

    View from the Boston Harbour Trail

    In the evening I had the opportunity to go to a Tweet-up at an Irish pub. Well over 20 people came. It was fantastic to be able to meet people in real life who I had previously only conversed with online. This reminded me of the message from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for this year’s World Communications Day:

    The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. [. . .]

    Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith.

    How absolutely true this is! In some cases it felt like I was connecting with old friends, though we had never met face-to-face. And for those whom I met first at the conference, we had an instant connection with respect to our Catholic faith and our desire to share Christ online. The real benefit of a conference like this (beyond the sessions, which were enormously informative) was the ability to connect with people face to face and to be inspired by them. Rather than a sense of competition as sometimes happens online, I detected a real sense of companionship, the desire to learn from each other, and a genuine celebration of each other’s efforts. We are all in this together!

    CNMC group

    On Saturday we began the actual conference. The opening keynote was given by Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. It was, in a word, stellar. Fortunately, you can watch it on YouTube, courtesy of the Archdiocese of Boston. There are several things that I immediately took away from the keynote, including:

    • Keynote by Msgr. Paul Tighe

      Keynote by Msgr. Paul Tighe

      Yes, the Tweets on @Pontifex do come from Pope Francis, usually summarizing his talk or homily of the day in 140 characters or less. (This can be hard to do with all the languages they translate for!)

    • Bombshell: is intended to aggregate church news and is meant to be shared. So, those of us online can share the content we find there and beg forgiveness later. There are some intellectual property issues that need to be figured out but at the heart of the matter is the fact that we are trying to share good news – so share it!
    • Everything is centred on the person of Jesus and inviting people to a relationship with him!
    • As it has been throughout the Church’s history, this is done through developing relationships with others. We are pilgrims walking with each other.
    • Social media allows us to develop relationships and to share our story of faith in ways that have never before been available.

    That last point in my list reminds me of a new initiative begun by my diocese: #IBelieveBecause. Feel free to share this around and encourage people to share why they believe!

    Jeff Young and Fr. Roderick Vonhögen talk about internet audio.

    Jeff Young and Fr. Roderick Vonhögen talk about internet audio.

    After this, there were several smaller group sessions in the morning and afternoon that dealt with various topics. I attended sessions about audio and video, which both involved Fr. Roderick Vonhögen (aka Geekpriest, co-founder of SQPN, and new media guru!). These sessions were overflowing with information and I’m very much looking forward to hearing the audio of all of them when they are released on the CNMC virtual ticket.  (Watch for more details when the talks become generally available for purchase!)

    An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

    An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

    Later that day I was able to buy Fr. Roderick’s awesome new book, Geekpriest: Confessions of a New Media Pioneer. Don’t delay; go and buy it now! It’s fantastic and I’ll have to write a more in-depth review later. Fr. Roderick graciously signed the book and posed for a lightsaber duel, which was really cool. (I do wish I had known this in advance, however; I’d have brought my phaser! The lightsaber really is an elegant weapon, but it’s for a more civilized age.)

    I was also welcomed onto an all-day internet broadcast of Catholic Weekend, an SQPN show. That was way too much fun. We spent the evening at a restaurant that was likened to an adult version of Chuck E. Cheese, with tons of arcade games and the like. It was also the evening that my Roughriders soundly defeated the BC Lions, but sadly I couldn’t watch it. For some reason, the people of Boston were glued to the game seven game involving the Red Sox at Fenway. Go figure.

    Sunday Mass. Recognize the guy on the right?

    Sunday Mass. Recognize the guy on the right?

    Oh well. Both the Riders and the Red Sox won, resulting in a lot of really happy people (and a happy priest!) at Mass the next morning.

    We celebrated Mass in the basement chapel of a really nice Italian church. Following this, we went on a “Duck tour,” where a special, land-driveable boat goes through downtown Boston and into the water. The sights were great (we drove past the original “Cheers” bar) and the tour guide was hilarious and informative.

    Then after lunch it was time for some more intensive learning. We were taken on walkabouts where we learned more about photography, especially good photo composition. (Like a champ, I left my DSLR in the hotel room. D’oh!). Fr. Roderick led us on a walkabout where he talked about telling a story with video. I wish we had recorded these sessions; they were enormously informative! Again, as with the rest of the weekend, the focus in my mind was about sharing Jesus Christ by building relationships and telling stories through the different forms of media.

    Photography walkabout

    Photography walkabout

    Overall, this was a superb weekend and if I can make it in future years, I certainly hope to go. I’ve got to spend some more time digesting my notes and re-listening to the talks once the Virtual Ticket audio is released. I feel inspired in my own efforts online and challenged to grow in my use of them.

    For more blog reflections about the conference, check out this post by Maria Johnson. She has her own reflections and a list of those written by others.

    For those of you who were there: What were your thoughts/reflections? And for everyone, what are your thoughts when it comes to using the internet for evangelization?

    Update: All of my photos are available on Facebook.

    Pope Benedict’s Message for the 47th World Communications Day

    “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization”

    Pope Benedict XVI has released his message for the 47th annual World Communications Day.  This is a special day that was initiated by the Second Vatican Council so that “the faithful are instructed in their responsibilities” in the use of modern means of social communications (Inter Mirifica #18).

    The theme this year is about the use of social media. As some of you may have noticed, this has been a particular passion of mine. I was also honoured to be asked to present on this topic at the recent CCO Rise Up conference in Saskatoon.

    Pope Benedict hits this one out of the park!  The full message can be found at

    Here are some of my initial thoughts. This part particularly resonated with me:

    I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.

    Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28.19), and his first followers took him at his word.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they went to continents of the known world.  Pope Benedict has referred to the internet as the new “digital continent.”  It therefore is a natural conclusion that these new technologies and communities should be an integral part of the ministry of the Church — a new “agora” or a new Areopagus (Acts 17).  We must encounter the culture where it is, which today increasingly includes the online realm.

    To that end, the Pope writes about the need to build and strengthen real relationships online, which is the place that “is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young.”

    However, he notes that online communication is often lacking in real dialogue. In my experience, online communications can often become downright nasty and overly emotional. Further, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a post, comment, or story about Christianity which showcases some fundamental misunderstanding about the faith or about the practices of the Church, etc. And so, he writes:

    The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own.

    We need to engage and dialogue with people where they are, while remembering to be inclusive of others. There can be a real tendency to only seek out those who think like us, but that doesn’t further real dialogue. It’s just preaching to the choir. Welcoming others who don’t think like me can be a real challenge. It’s uncomfortable. But sharing the good news of Jesus is not always comfortable. And let’s remember a sense of perspective here: many Christians died (and continue to do so) for sharing the gospel. We are concerned with getting negative feedback in an online forum.

    What’s up with that?

    Regarding the methods used to share the gospel online, Pope Benedict encourages communicating in ways that engage “the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love.” Or, as I’ve heard Archbishop Richard Smith put it (paraphrased), our communications need to be beautiful because our faith is beautiful.

    Ultimately, our eyes need to always be fixed upon Jesus, because he alone is the source of all good:

    It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in “a still, small voice” (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the “kindly light” of faith.

    Or, as I put it in my CCO Rise Up presentation, “Be prayerful. Be joyful. Be authentic.”

    Read the entire message here.

    Also check out Brandon Vogt’s thoughts. He’s much more eloquent than I!


    Top 10 Posts of 2012

    A blessed new year to all of you!

    Please permit me to steal borrow an idea from Lisa & Joel Schmidt’s wonderful blog: a list of my top-ten most viewed posts in 2012!  However, with Lisa’s encouragement I will be extending this to beyond just what’s at, and I’ll be including my audio/video projects as well.  For the audio and video posts, I’ll be looking at the number of downloads/views of the media itself, and not the blog hits.  Also note that some of the posts listed below were produced prior to 2012, but they still get a decent number of hits.  I’ve indicated the year of posts that were not published in 2012.

    Here it is:

    1. Music for the new translation of the Roman Missal (blog, 2011)

    2. Hot Cup of Ministry Episode #40 (May 7, 2012): Cathedral Dedication (podcast/audio)

    3. The SportsFathers Episode #2 (Oct. 9, 2012): The 13th Man (sigh.)

    4. Hot Cup of Ministry Episode #41 (June 1, 2012): I can see clearly now, the Visioning has come (podcast/audio)

    5. Parish welcome video (includes some dog footage :-)) (YouTube)

    6. Apples and Blackberries and iCloud! (Oh my!) (blog, 2011)

    7. Hot Cup of Ministry Episode #38 (March 30, 2012): Lent, RCIA, et cetera. (podcast/audio)

    8. Homily from Aug. 26, 2012: Another weekend, another Roughrider game… (homily/audio)

    9. Homily from November 18, 2012: The world is coming to an end! (homily/audio)

    10. The Pale Blue Dot: Reflection for Corpus Christi (YouTube)

    Looking at this, my audio/video posts are the most popular overall.  However, blog posts containing some key search terms tend to be found by a lot of people, even though the top two posts weren’t written in 2012.  I should probably work on doing a few more blog posts in 2013… :-)

    I do see a definite payoff with video in terms of hits.  Video is the hardest to produce well, but it’s worth the effort.  I produced 4 video reflections of my own and 50% of them made it to the top ten (this doesn’t include videos that I produced for Tobias and Sarah Ministries – check those out! Reflection 1 and Reflection 2).

    Also important, however, is to not get caught up too much on stats.  First of all, it’s hard to get reliable stats.  An iOS6 bug made it hard to determine the exact hits that my podcast audio received (there were thousands of 206 hits in September/October as some iOS devices downloaded LOTS of incomplete files).  And there are also a number of bot hits from China on mp3 files that I’ve attempted to remove from the final tally.

    Second, discussion about a certain post isn’t necessarily reflected by the number of hits it receives.  For example, my video reflection on my 5th anniversary of the priesthood generated a good amount of (uplifting!) discussion on Facebook, even though its hit count wasn’t enough for the top 10.

    I will end with (almost) the same question that Lisa & Joel posted on their top ten:

    Questions for you readers/listeners/viewers: What’s your advice for me in my online posts? What resonates with you? Fellow bloggers/media producers, have you taken a similar inventory? What are you learning from your 2012 analysis?