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The Edmundite Show

Father Lino Oropeza is a fan of technology. He worked in information technology in his native Venezuela before becoming a priest of the Society of St. Edmund, based at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, so it seems natural that he would come up with an idea to combine technology and education about the Catholic faith. “People are not coming to church, so this was an idea to bring the church to them,” he said. “The charism of the Society of St. Edmund is to evangelize people. Everything we do is geared toward that. This is one piece of that.”
 
“This” is The Edmundite Show, a weekly half-hour program on YouTube presented by Father Oropeza and fellow Edmundite, Father Michael Carter.
 
The show, produced in Father Oropeza’s office in Alliot Hall, is not scripted; the order’s two youngest priests just let the conversation develop.
 
Father Oropeza, 36, and Father Carter, 27, presented the first Edmundite Show for All Saints Day in November. Since then, topics have focused on vocations, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, St. Edmund, Thanksgiving and the Solemnity of Christ the King, Advent and the Immaculate Conception.
 
Because he already had the computer he uses for the show, all Father Oropeza needed were two microphones and a soundboard. His religious order invested less than $200 for the equipment.
 
Technology is his hobby, so the Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts international coordinator at St. Michael’s likes to keep up with the latest developments. YouTubers and their programming made him think of a program about the Catholic faith, so he asked Father Carter to work with him on the project and “talk about Church stuff.”
 
Through The Edmundite Show, they hope to educate about the faith, promote vocations and help viewers get to know the Society of St. Edmund, the 175-year-old religious order founded in France that began St. Michael’s College.
 
The program streams live at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays on the Society of St. Edmund’s YouTube channel. While it is live streaming, there is a chat feature so the priests can accept comments and questions; Father Oropeza monitors the chat on a computer during the recording of the program.
 
“It’s not a fully polished product yet,” Father Carter said of the show Dec. 6.
 
Though the show is not directed to any one demographic, Father Oropeza said students at the college are curious about religion and God, and when they have the opportunity to talk to him, they ask deep questions; “but at the same time, they are not coming to the sacraments.”
 
The idea of The Edmundite Show, then, is to catechize, which they do in a light-hearted way. “In a way, that’s the nature of the medium,” said the bearded Father Carter, an avid Facebook user. “We want to present energy that is fun and sometimes silly — that’s more me than Lino” who is clean-shaven.
 
Father Carter began one show wearing a light-up turkey headband.
 
Humor is a tool he uses when he teaches religion at the college or preaches at the three churches of the Essex Catholic Community that he serves as parochial vicar. “When you use the element of humor, it brings people’s guard down and you can segue into something more serious.”
 
The priests, both graduates of St. Michael’s College, seek to bring the depth of their beliefs out in a way that is understandable and appealing.
 
Father Oropeza had hoped for five viewers for the first show, so he was surprised to have 30. But that number has grown as high as 1,034 with people watching not only in the United States but in such other countries as Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Spain and Sweden.
 
Father Carter, a graduate of Burlington High School, participated in that school’s theater program because he considers himself a shy person and thought it would help him with public speaking, which it did.
 
“I’m definitely not shy,” Father Oropeza interjected. “I’m introverted — though some people would not believe that of me. I have no fear standing in front of people and talking to people. But at the end of the day I need time to be by myself and regroup.”
 
Shy or not, it’s evident both priests enjoy The Edmundite Show.
 
Father Oropeza hopes more people will subscribe to the show (at 36 at the time of this report) and that there will be more interaction with viewers during live streaming. He’s also considering adding another live stream on a different day of the week to interview various guests.
 
The fruit of their efforts, Father Carter said, will be facilitating even one person having a more open perspective about the Catholic Church, the priesthood or vocations. “I’d be pleased with that … or to make one person more curious about the Church than they were before.”
 
Father Oropeza said he knows of one man who binge-watched The Edmundite Show and liked it because he learned about the Catholic faith.
 
“Now we need [the Edmundite Show] community to grow,” he said.
 
Watch the show and subscribe for free.
 
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Bishop Coyne: Strong net neutrality protections critical to faith community

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications has urged the Trump administration to keep current net neutrality rules in place because an open internet, he said, is critical to the nation's faith communities and how they interact with their members.
 
"Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet," said Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne.
 
"Nonprofit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content," he said in a Nov. 28 statement.
 
The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Neutrality means, for example, providers cannot prioritize one type of content over another, nor can they speed up, slow down or block users’ access to online content and services.
 
On Nov. 21, the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission announced his proposal to roll back rules on neutrality put in place in 2015 by the Obama administration.
 
Bishop Coyne urged that the current rules remain in place. "Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members," he said.
 
These protections are "essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment," Bishop Coyne said.
 
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement that under his plan, "the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices."
 
Bishop Coyne said: "Robust internet protections are vital to enable our archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people -- particularly younger persons -- in our ministries."
 
The FCC is scheduled to vote on Pai's proposal at its monthly hearing Dec. 14. Observers predict the vote will fall along party lines. Chairman Pai is Republican as are Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Rielly. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel are Democrats.
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Technological ‘practices’

By Brett Robinson
 
As a father of four, I am familiar with practice. There’s hockey practice, piano practice and lots of practicing patience. My kids are learning what a C-sharp sounds like and how to track the puck when they are playing defense. These practices form our family by training perception.
 
I’m thankful for all of the kids’ activities, partly because they distract them from the screen. The screen is another venue for forming perception, though we rarely think of it that way. We tend to talk about media technology as a means for communicating or gathering information.
 
Meanwhile, the practice of using the technology is forming our perception in small ways that often go unnoticed.
 
One example is the blue light that is emitted from smartphones and tablets that interferes with the neurotransmitters that bring on sleep. Reading before bed can be a relaxing activity but doing it from a screen can tell your brain just the opposite, to wake up.
 
Media technology practice also has an effect on memory. How many times have you opted to Google something rather than try to remember it on your own? How many photos have you taken at a party or on vacation for fear that you might not remember how fun or beautiful everything was?
 
Practice forms habits and when they are properly ordered, habits can be salutary for the soul. However, habits can also turn into disordered obsessions or addictions. Today, we hear a lot about technology addiction but not a lot about technology practice.
 
There are certainly addictive qualities about media technology but even if we are not addicted, we are still engaged in the practice of using those technologies regularly. And those practices can alter our perception in ways that change our understanding of others, ourselves and God.
 
The question that needs asking is, What is all of this technology practice forming us for?
 
Our devices — even when they are put away — haunt us with the possibility that a new message or bit of news is ready to be consumed. It starts with a practice like using the computer for hours a day (required for most office workers) that spills over into leisure time with social media, games and plenty of Netflix.
 
For children, it is the threat of boredom that drives them to the screen. Boredom, a state once reserved for the free play of the imagination and memory, is conquered by their thirst for constant stimulation that can only be slaked by streaming media.
 
Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper said that leisure was the basis of culture. It’s leisure that gives us the time and space to contemplate God. Without it — in lives that are dictated by labor and the digital tools required to perform it — we lose our capacity to perceive the capaciousness of God. The ways that we spend our leisure time says a lot about what we ultimately value.
 
But there are upsides to the new technology’s effects on the senses, memory and imagination. There are practices that help us recognize the pain of another human being or get in touch with something transcendent.
 
One example is viewing family photos with a child and telling them stories about when they were little. It’s a small practice that forms their memory in ways that remind them that they are part of a family and a stream of memories, part of something much larger than themselves.
 
If the goal is finding a healthy balance with our technological creations, then we have to start with practice. Just as a doctor practices medicine, a Catholic practices religion. We know it’s the cure for our spiritual maladies, but sometimes we shirk our duty to rise and pursue the good.
 
Take a moment to revisit the practices in your daily life and to ask how they are forming your memory and imagination. As Catholics, we call to mind Christ’s passion, death and resurrection so that we can imagine a life of hope.
 
There’s even an app for that! It’s called 3D Catholic and 3D stands for three devotions: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s a simple reminder that our virtual technologies shouldn’t strip us of our physical bodies. Because those bodies can be used to commemorate Christ’s passion through prayer, fasting and helping others in very real ways.
 
– – –
 
Robinson is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life.
 
 

 
  • Published in Nation

Virtual prayer groups

By Carrie Handy, respect life coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington
 
How many times have you told someone, “I will pray for you,” after learning of a troubling diagnosis, a bereavement or a worry on that person’s mind? Prayer is something we Catholics do, for and with one another — from the highest form of prayer, which is the Mass, to private devotionals for particular intentions.
 
When it comes to building a culture of life, prayer may be considered the most powerful tool we have. Especially in a state like Vermont where abortion is widespread and assisted suicide is legal, movements like 40 Days for Life (40daysforlife.com) and Cenacles of Life (cenaclesoflife.org) offer tangible opportunities to pray and fast in solidarity with others who are committed to promoting the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some people to find time to gather physically to pray.
 
Thanks to the tools of our modern age, however, a solution has emerged: virtual prayer groups. These take many forms, but their common feature is that members connect digitally around shared prayer intentions, allowing them to pray “together” wherever they are and whenever they can.
 
Many Vermonters participate in Nine Days for Life, a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops-sponsored novena for pro-life intentions that takes place nationwide during the nine days leading up to the annual March for Life each January in Washington, D.C. Participants register at 9daysforlife.com and are sent daily reminders and prayers via email, text or social media apps.
 
Social media platforms like Facebook also offer myriad public and private prayer groups devoted to specific causes. Informal prayer groups can arise organically and take a variety of forms; not all require members to be tech-savvy.
 
Lori Daudelin, who helps coordinate the diocesan post-abortion healing ministry known as Project Rachel, developed a prayer ministry called “Friends of Project Rachel Prayer Partners,” a community of volunteers who pray for participants in the Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat as well as those who call Project Rachel for support.
 
Daudelin sends requests to members using both email and surface mail outlining prayer requests. “Members’ time commitment is whatever they want it to be,” Daudelin explained. “They offer the prayers they feel led to.” She always is looking to add new members to this prayer community.
 
Pam King of Swanton, co-director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Church in St. Albans, leads a virtual prayer group which began spontaneously more than two years ago when a handful of friends agreed to pray a novena for a mutual friend who was experiencing troubled times. King sent daily reminders via text message to connect participants and to formalize their effort. Members texted “Amen” after they finished praying. The group continues with some 30 participants who receive either text or email reminders.
 
With input from the members, King identifies prayer intentions and searches out appropriate prayers to support them. “We have developed a kind of spiritual family where we support each other in times of need,” King explained, adding that it is a format that is easy to adapt to suit the goals of any prayer ministry. She often consults the website praymorenovenas.com to find suitable prayers for the group.
 
“Catholic Apptitude” (catholicapptitude.org/mission) is another online resource offering reviews of many digital apps devoted to prayer and devotions.
 
There are no limits to when individuals can pray, and now, with the availability of digital media, there are fewer limits to how and when we can pray together. 

Originally printed in the summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
 

Rules of engagement

“No road is long with good company.” Turkish proverb
 
Every great relationship needs someone to initiate the conversation to get things going.
 
Great personal advice? Certainly, but on the website where I found this quote, “start the conversation” was the first of several tips on how to improve your social media engagement.
 
Be attentive, spark intrigue, know your audience, have a sense of humor, share compelling data – translate those into rules to improve personal relationships and your friends and loved ones will be happy.
 
If we followed the rules of engagement for social media marketing in our personal relationships, whether with family, friends, or even with God, we would be making real relationship headway.
 
But our culture has become such that we are more comfortable engaging with technology than we are with other people.
 
Recently I came across a video of a popular Italian-American comedian, Sebastian Maniscalco. He was new to me, but the topic of his act caught my eye -- The doorbell rings: then verses now.
 
He described how when the doorbell rang 20 or more years ago, the whole family jumped up and went to the door, delighted they were to have company. Mom brought out a store bought cake she was saving for just such an occasion. A pot of coffee was made and life was good.
 
Today, he demonstrated, when the doorbell rings, everyone drops to the floor and is shushed by parents into silence. Dad mouths the words, “Did you invite anyone over? Who invited someone over?” He commands somebody to grab the sword from under the couch and instructs mom to do the army crawl out of the kitchen so whoever is at the door won’t see movement and know someone is home.
 
The performance loses a lot in a simple text translation, but I had tears from laughing. All comedy is an exaggeration of some kind, but for me this skit rang true. When I was young we didn’t hesitate to open the door when the bell rang.
 
We didn’t have store-bought cake but my mom always had a box of Jiffy muffin mix ready to pop into the oven. The white and blue Corelle Ware percolator was ready on the counter for the unexpected guest and we often had family and friends popping in just to visit.
 
Today, when the doorbell rings we know instinctively it’s not a visitor. Everyone is too busy, and you just don’t drop in on people in this day and age. You make an appointment. If there’s someone at the door, it is probably someone proselytizing, a salesman, a utility company coming to turn off your service, or the mailperson needing a signature on a certified letter, which is never good.
 
Because we live in an age of fear, we now have security systems built into our doorbells just in case a visitor is really a criminal casing the house. I mean, who else would be stopping by without calling first?
 
Social isolation, including isolation from God, has become a reality for us in a time of increased social media use. While technology is speeding ahead in light years and employees are required to stay abreast of the latest and greatest, our real honest-to- goodness facetime with the people in our lives is being tossed aside like yesterday’s android phone.
 
The truth is we cannot have healthy relationships without investing time and presence. We need both for our loved ones and for God.
 
A friend of mine shared some of her dad’s wisdom as he reached the end of his life. He said it was important to get your priorities straight – God, family and work, in that order.
 
The great thing about God is you don’t need to call ahead and He loves company.

--Mary Morrell
 
  • Published in Diocesan
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