By A. B. HILL
As the Year of St. Paul closes, we should reflect on the influence of this great saint’s words and deeds. Twenty centuries later, people still convert their hearts and souls to God by reading his influential letters. St. Paul used the tools of communication available to him at that time to spread the Gospel and change the world.
As Catholics in the world today, we have remarkable new tools to communicate with others – the Internet alone connects friends worldwide with unbelievable convenience, speed and cost-effectiveness. Following St. Paul’s lead, we should take full advantage of these tools to influence the world around us.
In that spirit, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is launching an initiative to bolster its long-standing mission of fostering a public understanding of the Church’s teaching and concern about many issues within the public policy arena. The PCC Institute for Public Policy is a project of the Pennsylvania Bishops to facilitate opportunities to learn more about the Catholic perspective on public affairs. Experts will come together here to shed the light of Catholic social teaching into the public debate. Seminars, publications and many occasions for learning will help people to pass this knowledge on to others. The most notable resource of the Institute is a new, high-tech web site at www.pacatholic.org.
The web site is a rich repository of PCC’s columns, quarterly newsletters and frequent news alerts. It also includes articles from the newspapers or magazines of all 10 Pennsylvania dioceses. Visitors will be able to view video clips, listen to podcasts, read statements from the Bishops and download resources for Church bulletins. Moreover, the site provides quick links to help you contact your legislator.
Everything in the site is catalogued into one or more of seven categories – Catholic Education, Religious Liberty, Life and the Dignity of the Human Person, Marriage and Family, Social Justice, Health Care, or Faith and Politics. Visitors can click on a particular category to read the most recent news about that topic. The Faith and Politics section features the results of the candidate surveys the PCC conducts during state and federal elections.
Furthermore, everything in the site is “tagged” to improve searchability. The powerful search feature draws many related materials from deep within the collection.
But what makes this dynamic web site really exciting is the new technology itself. Visitors may “subscribe” by signing up to receive an e-mail or notification every time something new is added. They can sign up to receive notice about all issues, or just those in which they are most interested.
If visitors like what they read on the site, they can easily share it. A few simple clicks allow them to spread the word electronically by e-mail or post links to favorite social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.
The potential to learn and share information is enormous.
St. Paul influenced many with his letters and speeches. We too must use the communication tools of our generation to spread the Gospel and shed the light of the Catholic faith in the public policy debate online, offline and everywhere.
A. B. Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.