The Tweeting Nun
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"It all started with my twitter account. I would do a couple tweets every day after my morning meditation, just about the Scriptures and the Mass of the day..."
Sr. Mary Agnes Dombroski.
SAN DIEGO, CA. (John Paul the Great Catholic University) - Sister Mary Agnes is the co-founder of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love, a new private association of sisters headquartered in Rochester, NH. At last count, she had more than 1000 online followers across 5 different social networks. Not bad for a nun in her 40s!
Her introduction to the world of social media happened in an e-commerce class at John Paul the Great Catholic University, a new college in San Diego specializing in new media and entrepreneurship. She enrolled to acquire the business skills she needs to help her order in the new millennium. "I need to face the fact that I co-founded a community," she says, "and the women who are going to join us will have grown up with social media. I better know that territory and that landscape, so I can guide them to go back into it as representatives of the church, not in the way they did as teenagers."
For a class assignment at John Paul the Great, she created an application to help people pray the rosary while on Facebook. So far, over a million people have viewed (and likely prayed) the Facebook Rosary, and 4,280 users across all 6 continents have added it to their social media bookmarks. "The fact is that a lot of people are searching through the social media. They're looking for something; they're trying to fill a void. I'm trying to make sure that what I add into that void is something good and useful."
Pope Benedict agrees that the social web is an important place for the church to be present. In his address on this year's World Communications Day, the pontiff spoke about the responsibility of priests and religious in the arena of the social web.
"Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility" the pope says, "to help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord´s presence, to grow in expectation and hope, and to draw near to the Word of God. In this way the Word can traverse the many crossroads created by the intersection of all the different 'highways' that form 'cyberspace.'"
Sister Mary Agnes is certainly using different "highways." Her online presence includes a profile on a social network for active runners called DailyMile, where she promotes her community's annual "5k Road Race" fundraiser and chronicles her own struggle to get back into the habit of running. "I got a request this morning from a Catholic runner in Mexico, who said he just wanted to have a sister as a friend."
The Pope has called for the church to be present online. People like Sister Mary Agnes have responded and so have institutions like John Paul the Great Catholic University, which is launching a degree in New Evangelization this fall. "We have certain academic strengths in new media, biblical theology and entrepreneurship," says JPCU's provost, Dominic Iocco. "Now is the time when students can use those tools to be 'Saint Pauls' for the twenty-first century."
Steve Marshall is an MBA student at the John Paul the Great University where he also serves as the manager of Public Relations
John Paul the Great Catholic University is a faithfully Catholic college committed to impacting the culture for Christ through business and media.