Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Catholic Church is embracing the digital revolution : American Papist, Thomas Peters

The Catholic Church is embracing the digital revolution as a tool for evangelization and catechesis. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this on May 24 in his message for the 43rd World Day of Communications:

In this year’s message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called digital generation and I would like to share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity. These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavour to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

Bishop Loverde of Arlington echoed these sentiments in his recent Arlington Catholic Herald column:

The Pauline Year is a particularly appropriate time to consider the efforts we make to communicate our Catholic identity. Let us remember that Christ told us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In the time of Saint Paul, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was spread by the missionary journeys of the apostles, often on foot, to the farthest reaches of the known world. These apostles, and Saint Paul in particular, spread the message of Christ using the means available at the time. Today, the development of social networking sites and new media provides us with innovative means to communicate and address critical issues in society, including the preeminence of the family, the sanctity of life, human sexuality, human rights, hunger and poverty. As members of the Catholic Church, we have the advantage, indeed the obligation, to use these new technologies to glorify the Lord.

In honor of this year's World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI launched a new Web site, http://www.pope2you.net/, and a Facebook application in order to evangelize the world, especially today’s youth. The Pope teaches us that “Undoubtedly, wise use of communications technology enables communities to be formed in ways that promote the search for the true, the good and the beautiful, transcending geographical boundaries and ethnic divisions” (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, January 25, 2009). He invites all of us to reach out to others through these new means of communication to form friendships and foster understanding and solidarity in the world.

Within the last decade, a Catholic blogging community has developed to bring an authentically Catholic identity to cyberspace. One of the preeminent Catholic bloggers makes his home here in the D.C. Metro area. Thomas Peters has authored the award winning American Papist blog since 2005. He moved to Washington D.C. from Michigan two years ago. In addition to winning numerous blog awards he has appeared on CNN, BBC World News, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show & MSNBC, and has also appeared in or been quoted by Our Sunday Visitor, The Boston Globe, National Catholic Reporter, EWTN Global Radio, Catholic News Agency, News Busters, LifeSiteNews, Inside Catholic, Busted Halo, Holy Smoke, The Huffington Post, Catholic Online, Catholic Culture, Catholic Exchange, National Catholic Register, etc. I recently had the opportunity to interview Thomas about his life as a young Catholic blogging star living in D.C.

Q: You have become one of the premier Catholic bloggers in the nation in an amazingly short time. What do you think is the key to your rapid rise in readership? What do you offer that some other blogs might not?

A: AmP's rise to prominence has certainly been dizzying. At current levels, AmP is a 3-million visit per year blog. That's a lot of people. It's hard for me to pin down what has accounted for its success, but some good circumstances certainly helped. AmP has a two-level approach, I try to keep track of most "important" things, so people are at least aware of what is going on, and second I do "megacoverage" of what I consider to be a very important story. Thus, visitors can have some confidence that they'll be aware of most the important things happening and, if they are interested, they can also get the latest and most detailed information for a critical story, which often includes exclusive information.

Q. Is there a certain demographic that you target in your blog?

A: I began AmP as a "youth blog" for young adults, focusing on stories that I think interest my generation more, but I also have a high ideal for what youth are capable of understanding, so as its worked out that I talk about pretty much everything. I do, however, typically have a bit more media and humor than your average "news" blog.

Q: Has your move to the Washington D.C. area changed the focus of your blog?

A: Since coming to Washington DC there is certainly more politics. It’s the name of the game in this town. DC has incredible opportunities for meeting important figures both in politics and the Church. The Pope visited last year. I met and talked with Archbishop Burke in May. I think it would be foolish not to take advantage of these opportunities when they are a short bus ride away. DC also has a singular network of young Catholic professionals, so I'd say my coverage has benefited from that group of friends and the fascinating things they are doing. As I often say, blogging for me is a way to continue and begin real life conversations.

Q: What is your favorite Catholic thing to do in the Washington D.C. area?

A: DC has so many great Catholic events that it's hard to choose. I'd say the yearly Vigil of All Saints put on by the Dominican Friars near CUA is one of my favorites. In early October look at www.dhs.edu for details! It's packed so count on getting there early.

Q: Is there a saint that you turn to for intercession for your blogging efforts?

A: I like praying to the "four Thomases", as I call them. St. Thomas the Apostle for courage to spread the gospel far and wide, St. Thomas Aquinas for wisdom to articulate the faith clearly, St. Thomas of Canterbury for determination in compromising nothing in pursuit of the truth, and St. Thomas More (my patron saint) for the prudence to judiciously decide how to say things properly. They've kept me in pretty good shape.

Q: Do you have any goals or plans for future development of your American Papist site?

A: I can't answer anything specifically, but it has become clear to me in the last couple months that AmP is getting too big to be a one-papist project. I'm looking into ways to bring some of my trusted friends on board as content editors/contributors and yes ... comment moderators. Of course I should talk to them more about that possibility first. But I think such assistance would really help me multiply my effectiveness in delivering the content that AmPsters have come to expect.

In addition to the blog, American Papist has a presence on the social networking site Twitter as well as Facebook. You can even buy American Papist gear to show you are a fan. It is an informative and entertaining blog that deserves a bookmark.

I hope to highlight other Catholic bloggers in the future. In the meantime, check out the links on the sidebar. When used wisely, Catholic blogs can offer support and spiritual growth for a faithful Catholic community.