By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published September 13, 2013
Last Saturday I went to the barber. As I sat in the chair, I noticed that there was a young father at the shop with his toddler son who had to have been all of about 3 years of age. The little boy sat quietly (amazingly so) in the chair next to me as he got a haircut. Then it was his father’s turn in the same chair. The little one was given his dad’s iPhone to entertain him. I was amazed at the dexterity, ease and facility with which this youngster navigated the instrument. I could see that there was a program on the phone with cartoon characters and some games—the 3-year-old was perfectly comfortable with moving the buttons on the screen to animate the program and laughing in sheer delight with whatever the cartoon figures were doing.
I began to realize what all you parents must already know far better than I do—namely that the world that our youngsters will inherit will be vastly different than our own childhood memories. But what amazed me then and even now was the age of the child who was navigating the iPhone—amazement and a little envy as I suspect the skills of the little one rivaled my own not only at his age, but even now.
I have frequently raised the issue with the National Catholic Educational Association that we must urge catechetical publishers to make more effective and widespread use of the electronic media in preparing the next generation of Catholic religious texts. They, too, see the need to respond to the changing environment that youngsters today will presume to be available as they learn computer skills at an earlier and earlier age. After all, the toddler in the barbershop may be more familiar with iPads when he goes off to school than he is with print materials.
This past May when the bishops of Region 14 (which includes the Province of Atlanta) visited the Offices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, I made a similar recommendation to Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of this new agency entrusted with furthering the New Evangelization throughout the entire Church. He agreed and then cautioned me that cyberspace communication alone will never supplant the need for a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. He was absolutely correct, of course, but then the Church will never be able to even reach the next generation with the invitation to meet Christ Jesus without a more effective use of the social communication tools of the 21st century—one depends upon the other.
Ultimately, the New Evangelization will depend upon how we use the means of communication to invite and to beckon people to come to know Christ and to discover Him within the community of the Church and through her Sacraments and in her teaching and spiritual treasures. We here in the Archdiocese will join the rest of the Church in this Year of Faith that will begin Oct. 11 by highlighting the Mother of God who in fact is Faith Personified. We will focus throughout the year on Mary in a number of her manifestations to the peoples of the world. She always enters the lives of people by identifying with them—she appears as one of them and speaks their language and reveals herself in ways that honor their heritages. She is the Woman of Faith for all of the Church.
We will also make use of an app for smartphones and tablets that is being designed for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, which will allow us to feature the events of this Year of Faith, to share the resources of other dioceses and the Holy See, that will invite our people to interact by telling their own stories of faith and their own spiritual encounters with Mary and all of the saints. There will be a video contest to highlight the most creative and engaging submissions of the stories of faith that fill this local Church.
If you are unfamiliar with how you might submit your stories on the Internet using our app—you might just ask a kid, and he or she will lead you: Isaiah 11:6.