Father Nigel Barrett and Father Warner D’Souza are no conventional Catholic priests.
To engage with parishioners in Mumbai suburbs, they scrap on Orkut, run Facebook groups, send parish updates through e-posters and text messages as well as write blogs to engage the youth in discussions about religious, civic, social and political issues.
“The best way to reach today’s youth is to meet them where they are — on social networking sites,” said D’Souza (38), among a growing number of city priests embracing new media.
D’Souza has more than 400 fans on each of his Bandra parish-related Facebook communities.
“Young people hesitate to approach priests in the institution of the church. They are more comfortable opening up within the anonymity of the net,” said Barrett (42), from Malad’s Orlem Church, who reaches out to parishioners over Google chat. The online forum has attracted more youngsters to community activities.
“I used to think parish work was only for the elders,” said 24-year-old Erita D’Souza, who learned that her parish needed youth volunteers only after she started following Barrett online in her college days.
“Now I have joined Sunday school and the local choir.”
Although Barrett has kept pace with changing technology ever since he was ordained 12 years ago, this year — the Year of the Priests for all Catholics — the need to adopt new media in communication has become a central concern for priests after the Pope urged them last month to use technology to spread the word.