The Catholic Church and the digital media revolution - cradio.org.au

The Catholic Church and the digital media revolution - cradio.org.au

Jason Rushton

The Second Vatican Council used the Latin phrase "Inter Mirifica" (Among Wonderful Things) to begin its assessment of the enormous changes in communication technology during the first half of the 20th century.

If such a council were held again today, one wonders whether a sufficient adjective might be found in the Latin language to capture the enormity of the changes in communication technology that have occurred within the first decade of the 21st century alone.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have more than 1,500 million unique users. None of these sites existed eight years ago.

Radio took 38 years to reach a market audience of 50 million and TV 13 years. But the internet, just four.

Google now performs 88 billion searches per month. (Some of its more earnest fans have suggested a new time designation: B.G. (Before Google).

If Facebook were a country, it would be the world's third largest.

One in six newly-married couples surveyed in the US in 2010 met online.

These statistics, it will not surprise you, were sourced from the internet.

It is difficult to grasp the true extent to which the "digital revolution" has impacted our lives. Newspapers, classifieds, street directories, encyclopaedias, telephones, analog radios and even books are giving way to online news, online auctions, SatNavs, Wikipedia, Smart Phones, digital radio and eBooks.

In his final apostolic letter before his death, published in January 2005, Pope John Paul II noted "the rapid development" of the world of communications. He said that Christians had a duty to use the media not only to spread the Gospel, but to evangelise the new media culture itself.

One need not look far today to find many fine answers to this call. The Facebook page "The Catholic Church" has a staggering 309,819 followers, who regularly share awe-inspiring images of Catholic churches from every corner of the globe. According to catholicblogs.blogspot.com, there are over 2,600 catholic blogs around the world.

The Sydney-based social network xt3 has in excess of 65,000 users and does an excellent job of connecting Catholics to one another and to quality media. From Chicago, the diocesan priest Fr Robert Barron publishes YouTube videos with such startling clarity and intellectual vigour that he incites the ire of many an online atheist, with whom he heartily exchanges in the "comments" sections below his videos.

In his message for World Communications Day in January, Pope Benedict wrote: "Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God."

Sydney Auxilary Bishop Julian Porteous is remarkably in tune with the thinking of the Pope - perhaps it is because they both use iPads! Two years ago, he launched a new online radio station based in Ultimo, Sydney, designed to be conducive to just this kind of reflection, questioning, prayer and meditation.

With the slogan "nourishing the soul of the digital generation", cradio.org.au is the aural answer of the Catholic Church in Australia to the digital media revolution.

Most listeners tune in from their desk at work, their study at home, through their mobile phone while commuting, or from their lounge-room while looking after the kids at home. (For more details about how to tune in, see below). Wherever Cradio reaches its audiences, it hopes that even just a few moments of listening will allow listeners to be spiritually uplifted, drawn closer to God.

Ancient chant, contemporary Catholic music, hymns, homilies, prayers, spiritual reading, apologetics, lectures, a series of home-grown programs and regular prayers such as the Angelus, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Rosary constitute the staple diet of Cradio broadcasts. "The Vocations Show", with Elizabeth Arblaster and Fr Michael de Stoop, "Love Talks Back", a relationships show hosted by MC and NA, two young women with big hearts and even bigger mouths and "Q&A with Bishop Julian" - call in with your questions on +612 8005 1530 - are some of the locally-produced programs that have flourished at the station.

The Missionaries of God's Love and Fr Vladimir Echalas SOLT also make their weekly homilies available through the Cradio web site.

Ironically enough, the listenership can be even greater during the wee hours of the morning, thanks to a growing number of overseas fans. From Ultimo, the broadcast reaches Colombia, India, Portugal, Greece, Canada, Poland and even Malawi - whence last week one listener sent the encouraging message: "Thank you for the wonderful message that you give me because i [sic] get the truth about the bible. Continue to send it because life is changing through God's words that you giving me... [sic]."

The Cradio studio was hand-built inside some rented office space, and the humble operation is kept afloat by the kind donations of listeners and the generous time and talents of volunteers.

In the future, Cradio hopes to be able to become a station that caters for all the radio needs of the Australian faithful, and in particular to reach a larger non-Catholic audience through digital stations as other denominations are already doing with great success.

If you'd like to join Cradio in this exciting task, you can reach us via our website, Skype, Facebook, email, Twitter, or telephone.

Jason Rushton is a journalism graduate from the University of Technology, Sydney, who has volunteered at Cradio since June 2010.

You can listen on your computer to Cradio via its website, cradio.org.au (click the "Listen live" link) or through the Tunein app on your smartphone (download the TuneIn Radio app) or by entering the following URL into any digital radio, web browser or radio software: http://67.23.248.194:8000

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