At BustedHalo.com, young adults find a place to learn more about the faith
JOLIET, Ill. (Catholic Explorer) - Countless Catholics in their 20s and 30s are seeking a deeper meaning in their lives. Many of them, however, aren’t partaking in the sacraments or looking to the church for spiritual guidance and support, stressed Paulist Father Dave Dwyer.
HITS ON A HIT - BustedHalo.com is a website designed to answer young adults' questions about the Catholic faith in a nonjudgmental, light but informative format.
Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have taken notice of the dwindling percentage of young adults participating at parishes across the country, said Father Dwyer. The bishops continue to encourage lay people and clergy to take steps to reach this segment of the Catholic population, he said, speaking about the aim of the Web site.
“The American church needs to reach out to them with the Gospel message,” Father Dwyer told the Catholic Explorer during a Jan. 4 telephone interview. A producer and director for MTV and Comedy Central before answering the call of the Lord in the 1990s, the priest said the site meshes the Catholic faith with popular culture.
’Present of the Church’
In 2001, the members of the New York City-based Missionary Society of St. Paul decided to use the World Wide Web to pass information about the Church to young adults. “We wanted to reach them where they are,” said Father Dwyer. “They aren’t the future of the church. They are the present of the Church,” he added, describing the need for the Catholic site and others similar to it on the Web.
About 15,000 people visit the site weekly, said Bill McGarvey, editor-in-chief. Over 35 writers contribute with magazine-style articles highlighting ways to bridge faith with politics and relationships. They also explore spirituality and entertainment, he said. New topics are featured on a rotating basis. “The site is not static,” he stressed.
Young people are “bombarded” with messages while surfing the Internet, said McGarvey. “We have to speak to them in a way they understand,” he said, talking about using technology to transmit the ideas of the faith. The teachings of the church haven’t changed over the centuries, he asserted. Ways of communicating them, however, need to be modified when it comes to reaching young people, he stressed.
BustedHalo.com features topics that illustrate how the Catholic faith is relevant to “the younger generation,” said McGarvey, a 34-year-old member of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Hoboken, N.J.
Saints in the making
The name of the Web site corresponds with the Christian notion that believers are “saints in the making,” said McGarvey. Each person sports a halo that is dented, scratched or tarnished by sin, he said. The Lord calls people to “bang out the dents” through prayer and charity, he said. “We’re not perfect.”
The Web site’s blog contains information on a variety of topics, including abortion, stem-cell research, capital punishment and euthanasia. Visitors are able to voice their opinions and concerns about these issues by writing messages on the blog. People can also listen to speeches from prominent Catholic speakers and priests’ homilies via the site’s podcasts. The overall goal is to address skepticism among young adults by highlighting Catholic truths, said McGarvey.
Practical discussions about sexuality on the Web site shed light on moral teachings of the faith. The relationship forum is the most popular feature of the site, McGarvey added.
Another frequently visited location on the site is the “survival guide” for incoming college freshmen, according to McGarvey. The document includes 25 suggestions made by college students and faculty members as well as experts. The tips are geared toward helping students handle the pressures of college life, he explained.
Question and guidance, with a smile
Guest theologians and apologists offer their expertise on the site as well. They field questions and offer guidance and suggestions, said McGarvey. These men and women strive to be nonjudgmental and work to offer practical advice, he added.
A lighthearted approach to explaining the Mass is also available on the site, along with Scripture and prayer guides. Among other features, a church question-and-answer section is offered on the Web site.
Visitors can also input their geographic location to find Catholic parishes with prominent programs and services for young adults, said McGarvey, an advisor to National Center for the Laity.
A singer/songwriter who has dabbled in publishing ventures over the years, McGarvey took over as editor-in-chief of the Web site in 2004. Being connected to the church via the site on a daily basis “brings a whole new dimension” to his faith, he said. He described his involvement in the project as “a great melding of my passions for faith, pop culture and universal questions.”
This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Explorer(www.catholicexplorer.com), official newspaper of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
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