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Grant paying for new digital outreach efforts

Monday, March 20, 2017 - Updated: 12:04 AM
By Bob De Witt Correspondent

Engaging younger generations of Catholics in new ways is vital to the church. Doing so requires communicating more effectively through modern methods, especially the use of social media.

A communications grant made possible by sacrificial gifts through Our Campaign for The Church Alive! will help the diocese connect with younger adults as well as the elderly and shut-ins, according to Father Nicholas Vaskov, executive director for communications.

“We need to have an engaging presence online for young people, but this cannot be our only goal,” he said. “It’s important to support personal relationships, listening and responding to their needs.”

The grant will fund three essential tools: an upgraded diocesan website, a new video studio and editing space, and increased digital and radio advertising.

The new diocesan website will be designed to be user-friendly to inform, invite and engage. The company that will build it specializes in Catholic websites.

“The new site will offer relevant content, accessible on desktop and mobile devices,” said Nick Sciarappa, digital media strategist for the diocese. “We’ll have an attractive website that will easily provide what you’re looking for.”

Video continues not only to be crucial for television, but is equally important for digital media, such as Facebook. TV programs provide spiritual enrichment for older viewers of the daily Mass, while video on social media can be effective to evangelize youth and young adults.

The diocese built a television studio at St. Paul Seminary in the 1980s for the production of then-Bishop Donald Wuerl’s weekly program “The Teaching of Christ.” Since that time, needs and technology have changed, and much of the equipment is now obsolete.

The grant proposal calls for the current studio space to be renovated and the equipment upgraded. The diocese will create more videos inviting people to events, informing them about the faith and providing spiritual encouragement from Bishop David Zubik and other leaders.

The third use of the communications grant is advertising, which expands the diocese’s reach beyond the faithful to those who have fallen away or have never believed.

The diocese has experienced some success with digital advertising on a limited budget, recently reaching 10 times more people with a sponsored post.

The promotion will allow the diocese to highlight aspects of Catholic life, such as devotion to the Blessed Mother, creative approaches to Lenten fasting and ways of being a good neighbor to the poor, and protecting the marginalized and unborn.

“The role of the pastor and parish is to meet people where they are. We support that work,” Father Vaskov said. “Our task is to inspire, inform and educate through as many channels as possible, whether it be @BishopZubik on Twitter or the diocesan Facebook page.”

Last summer, a communications grant helped to provide mobile video production equipment, a new editing suite and remote-control HD videocameras to televise Masses from St. Paul Cathedral.

“We’re here to be of service and share the good news,” Father Vaskov said. “Resources from the campaign will allow us to take advantage of best practices in communications, and for that we are most grateful to our donors.”


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