While many of our younger friars are well versed in the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, people from an older generation often balk at the use of social media. Most of our older friars do not check-in with their current location on Facebook, do not spend hours watching YouTube “celebrities” and certainly do not tweet their latest thoughts or most recent meal on Twitter.
The incredible impact and overarching reach of websites and particularly social media is a relatively new development within the last 10-15 years. Current statistics show that 3.5 billion people use social media, that is roughly 45 percent of the global population. 68 percent of U.S. adults are now on Facebook and more hours are spent watching YouTube videos than cable television. The bulk of those using social media are young people. 90 percent of millennials and 77 percent of Gen X's use social media, in contrast with only 48 percent of Baby Boomers. Statistics show that young people spend upwards of three hours a day on various social media platforms. Quite simply, it's where young people are at today.
In a little known, and likely less read, apostolic letter written by Pope John Paul II in 2005, he urged Christians to put the modern means of communications at the service of evangelization.
Titled, “The Rapid Development” and addressed to those responsible for communications, the late pope wrote, “The Church is not only called upon to use the mass media to spread the Gospel but, today more than ever, to integrate the message of salvation into the 'new culture' that these powerful means of communication create and amplify.” He went on to write, “The use of the techniques and the technologies of contemporary communications is an integral part of [the Church's] mission in the third millennium.”
The Capuchins have seen the importance of this “new culture” in recent years. By and large the majority of young men who discern a vocation with the Capuchins today come to us via our website or social media. They watch our videos on YouTube, like our photos on Instagram and comment on our posts on Facebook. For this reason, the province hired J.P. Kloess in 2018 to work as part of the marketing and communications team as the digital and social media manager. Together the team works to produce high-quality, online content to evangelize the culture, increase vocations and educate people on the life and ministry of the Capuchins.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the power of social media abundantly clear. Seclusion and isolation have forced more people than ever to seek out virtual ineractions. In addition to the regular series already running, “A Simple Word, “Franciscan Saints,” and “60 Seconds or Less,” the province began livestreaming Masses from the St. Francis Friary chapel in Denver. In addition, they began a new, daily series called “Good Morning, Good People” in which friars offer an uplifting and hopeful message via video to start the day. The series has been incredibly well received and our audiences across all social media platforms are growing. St. Francis did not wait for people to come to him; he brought the Gospel to wherever the people gathered. Today, more than ever, that gathering space is online.