Catholics around the world celebrated the feast of Blessed Carlo Acutis this month with a daily novena and songs streaming live on social media from the Philippines to Eucharistic Adoration and Masses in Italy and rosary rallies, exhibits, and prayers before his first-class relic in the United States.
Born in 1991, Blessed Carlo is the first beatified millennial of the Catholic Church. He is honored as a model of holiness for his faithful devotion to the Eucharist, Mass, and acts of charity and sacrifice. He had such a profound experience of the Eucharist after receiving his first holy communion that he would often say that the Eucharist was his “highway to heaven.” At 14, he researched the miracles of the Eucharist that were recognized by the Church, from the first Christian era to the present. He programmed a website and a virtual museum documenting these miracles.
Blessed Carlo died in 2006 at the age of 15, but his life and work continue to lead people to Christ. Many are calling him the patron saint of programmers, the internet, and technology for using the digital space to draw people into the rich history and traditions of the Church and bringing people who have become distant back to the sacraments.
After his beatification in Italy last year, Pope Francis said, “He knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.”
To celebrate Blessed Carlo, we’re highlighting some of the thoughtful ways our parish customers have also used the digital space to evangelize and grow discipleship.
St. Raymond of Penafort Parish
This vibrant community blends the beauty of two traditions, the history of the Catholic liturgy and the exuberance of African-American worship, creating an experience that makes everyone feel welcomed to the parish and loved by God.
For years prior to the pandemic, the parish had already been live streaming Sunday Mass and responding to the needs of people desiring to connect with their parish online.
“There were weeks where 2,000 to 3,000 people were joining us, which is not the numbers that are typical for a small parish like ours,” said Fr. Christopher Walsh, pastor. “From that, these were people who wanted to engage with the parish. There wasn’t a chance that they were ever going to worship with us in person. We had people from The Bahamas, Philippines, as well as just about every state in the U.S. who, through a family member or friend, found themselves worshiping with us. So we realized that we needed to create a digital campus, and that allowed us to have small groups that were online.”
The parish currently has a digital team of volunteers made up of video booth and soundboard operators, post-production assistants, website editors, and virtual hosts dedicated to extending hospitality to the online community. Their parish website has a clear path for visitors to learn about the community, inviting them to become a part of parish life and have a deeper relationship with God.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish
This welcoming community brings the Gospel to life on their website with a strong mission – belong, believe, become, beyond. The website also creates a clear path for visitors, making them feel welcomed, excited about belonging and experiencing the sacraments. They’ve also made it easier for parishioners to sign up for events online, listen to podcasts, and watch livestream Masses.
Lisa Sliker, parish administrator, explains the importance of investing time into creating a thoughtful membership process.
“It’s a huge moment when someone makes a choice to call your parish their spiritual home. It’s our first chance to get to know them and get to know as much about them as possible,” Sliker said. “At our parish, we call the membership process Begin because it’s the beginning of a relationship. The primary reason people are leaving our parishes is that their spiritual needs are not being met and God is no longer relevant in their lives. Build a membership form that captures all that you need to know about a parishioner so that we may minister to their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs in the name of Jesus.”
St. Anthony of Padua Parish
This large joyful community not only engages visitors on their website, but also in a custom parish app. Their dynamic mobile app includes a thoughtful 5-minute welcome video featuring real parishioner stories, livestream Masses, podcast, readings, devotions, and bilingual options to give.
Michael Gormley, director of evangelization and youth ministry and also the host of the parish podcast, emphasizes how important it is to have a pathway to your church. He surveyed members, asking them if any of the 15 bible study groups the parish offers interested them. He discovered that taking a simpler approach would attract more people to bible study.
“I started a program called the Start Here series. I take simple topics and created one-hour talks,” Gormley said. “It was a simple low bar entry. The number one place where we recruited people was online. And of all the people that came to my Start Here series classes, 100% had never been to a single class in their adult lives. Maybe they go to church, maybe Mass, but never as an adult sat down to learn the faith.”
He encourages other parishes to invest time into creating a plan for people to engage.
“God’s plan for the salvation of the world is the local church. How you bring people from the digital world to the real world is going to matter. When they get there, are you creating a space for people to land, on-ramps for people to get into the life of your church?”
To carry on the legacy of Blessed Carlo, we encourage you to share these customer success stories with your parish leadership team. Blessed Carlo showed us that holiness is possible and these parishes are amazing examples of how technology can be used as a vehicle to bring people closer to God.
ParishStaq is a platform that can help parishes achieve this. We’d love to talk to you about how our solution could help further your mission.
Visit parishstaq.com to learn more and schedule a demo.