Francis Young set up the AD2000 website in 2000 and continues to maintain and update it. He now lives in Maitland, NSW, and has four young sons under five whom he and his wife Annette are home schooling. He provides the following report with statistics and information on the growing worldwide outreach of AD2000.
When B.A. Santamaria founded AD2000 in 1988 as a monthly 'journal of religious opinion' he set a target of finding 5,000 Australian subscribers in its first year, and questioned whether history would judge the whole enterprise of launching a new religious journal when others were failing as an act of folly or of faith.
History shows that it has attracted enough people who were concerned about 'the struggle around issues of moral and doctrinal orthodoxy' to sustain it for twenty years, and its print and online readership now far exceeds 5,000.
Michael Gilchrist took over as editor in 1997 and in 2000 sought to give AD2000 a wider audience on the web.
By 2001 the year-old website at www.ad2000.com.au was already receiving over 5000 visitors per month.
As of February 2008 we were receiving 5,000 website visitors every two days who currently read an average of 3.5 articles per visit in just under four minutes. In the past year there were over 1.1 million visits and 1.8 million pages viewed.
Eighty-six percent of web visitors are from outside Australia and not only from English-speaking countries. In February 2008 the top thirty list also included in order Italy, Norway, India, Netherlands, Singapore, Philippines, Germany, China, France, Malaysia, Brazil, Poland, Mexico, Indonesia, Switzerland, Japan, Belgium and Sweden.
Naturally many overseas subscribers first encounter AD2000 via its online presence, which now houses over 2,700 articles and letters, including every article, review and letter published since 1998 as well as selections from 1988-1998.
It is interesting to note the most popular articles, and the search keywords that bring people to AD2000.
Perennial top ten searches include 'Oscar Romero', 'Hound of Heaven', 'priesthood', 'vocations', 'marriage' and various bioethical issues including euthanasia and embryonic stem cells. The fact that so many who seek these terms choose to read results from AD2000 plainly reflects the high quality of the articles, which may sometimes even constitute the best concise resource on a particular topic.
The most viewed pages usually include Church history in the world and Australia, philosophers such as Augustine, Aquinas and Jacques Maritain, saints and inspirational churchmen and women, Catholic demographics, Catholic education, Liturgy, Church architecture and a large spread of homilies and book reviews.
The major (orthodox) Catholic directory and media websites linked themselves to AD2000 and gave it very positive reviews almost immediately it was launched.
In the past couple of years many new links to AD2000 articles have also been appearing from the diary-style weblogs or 'blogs' of leading Catholic and cultural commentators. There are also 35 Wikipedia articles that reference AD2000 articles.
For those who are reading this in print, do make some time to browse the website at www.AD2000.com.au. If you are reading this online and are not a subscriber, your support will be greatly appreciated if you do so, and the beautifully produced colour glossy journal will be in your mailbox in a few weeks.
Subscribing also means that you can login with your subscriber code to read all the articles, letters and book reviews in the latest issue of the journal online.
In 2001, in response to the Australian bishops' ad limina visit, the Holy Father directed, 'A new evangelisation is the first priority for the Church in Oceania. In one sense her mission is simple and clear: to propose once again to human society the entire gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ' (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Oceania, 18).
Just weeks before his death, Pope John Paul II again urged priests and Church officials to explore the internet's potential for evangelisation and education. 'Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank 'among the marvellous things' - inter mirifica - which God has placed at our disposal,' he wrote. (Apostolic Letter Il Rapido Sviluppo [The Rapid Development], addressed to those responsible for communications).
And in his message for the 39th World Communications Day, on 24 January 2005, John Paul II observed, 'Modern technology places at our disposal unprecedented possibilities for good, for spreading the truth of our salvation in Jesus Christ and for fostering harmony and reconciliation.'
The truth is not always easy to take, of course. When Christ insisted that his flesh was real food, even some of his followers 'no longer walked with Him.'
AD2000 certainly fosters harmony and reconciliation and does so in the context of defending and promoting Catholic truth, 'with charity, but without beating around the bush', as B.A. Santamaria put it in 1989.