Fr. Marcos Enrique was ordained in 2019 after completing his studies and formation at Saint John’s Seminary. He now serves as the parochial vicar for the Dorchester Collaborative of St. Ambrose and St. Mark. Upon ordination Fr. Enrique could not possibly foresee the future of his priestly ministry or how it would be affected by the “new normal” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reflecting back on his time at the seminary, Fr. Enrique recalled his struggle with the slower paced environment of the seminary, compared to the very active life he was used to living, “it was a cause of frustration for me. I wanted to do more things, I wanted to take more classes, I wanted to be more active.”
The seminary is not only a place of the study of philosophy and theology, but it is also a place for a man to draw closer to God by offering him an environment in which there is ample time for personal and communal prayer. Fr. Enrique continued, “my formation advisor at the time, Bishop Mark O’Connell, said to me, ‘Marcos, we know you can do more, we want to see that you can do less.’”
Parish life seemingly came to a halt in March of 2020. Fr. Enrique reflected, “the experience of Saint John’s had come back to me. It was then that I realized that a lot of my life was activity and not enough of it was reflection.” In today’s busy, chaotic world, we can easily miss the voice of God if we do not slow down long enough to listen. The busyness of daily life and ministry can often become routine.
From this sudden unexpected slowing down of life for Fr. Enrique, came an opportunity to reflect more deeply on his ministry and on new opportunities for evangelization. A new sense of pastoral creativity was sparked by the Holy Spirit which resulted in a wave of virtual parish ministry. As so many other priests and those serving in parish ministries, Fr. Enrique needed to adjust to a digital world. The possibility of a personal encounter was removed as parishes closed their doors and public Masses were suspended. There was a sudden need live stream Mass and to proclaim the Gospel in new and innovative ways to local communities.
Fr. Enrique has started a parish YouTube Channel and saw the value of evangelizing using social media, “the things we learn how to do in times of difficulty, they become effective tools to reach many people who are still not here [in the parish] and those who might never come. Many people are being drawn to the love of Jesus Christ.” Pope Francis, in his 2016 message for World Communications Day, saw the value of modern means of communication, "Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology that determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal."
Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel "to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization." Pope Francis has said “in fidelity to the Gospel, and in response to the urgent needs of the present time, we are called to reach out to those who find themselves in the existential peripheries of our societies.” One might say, that to a certain degree, social media and the digital world is a region which is awaiting the first evangelization. Social media is a tool of evangelization, but it is, also a mission field in a “crisis of faith due to secularization”. Social media is on the forefront of society, but also on the peripheries. It is open to all.
The goal is never to simply remain in the digital world. As restrictions are eased, and parish life slowly returns to what it once was, the specific need of social media is less urgent, but still serves as a valuable tool. Social media should be used as means of first encounter, a hook to draw people into the life of the parish but never as a replacement for a personal encounter. Social networks are communities which need to be ministered to with meaningful content, but through the content that is shared, an invitation must also be extended to come to Mass, to return to the sacraments, to come to Catholic events, and to join the parish community.
Fr. Enrique is someone who has a self-proclaimed dislike of social media, but through the experience of the pandemic, and the needs of his community, he was able to see the value it serves to bring people closer to the love of Christ. Evangelizing the culture through social media is something every Catholic is able to do.
How do you use social media? Who do you present yourself to be on the apps you use? Challenge yourself today to be a herald of the Gospel on social media. Share your faith, share the love of Christ, proclaim the Gospel.
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