10/19/2012 10:31:00 AM Religious orders say social media use spurs more interest in vocations
Catholic News Service photo
Seminarians to be ordained deacons participate in a candlelight vigil at the Pontifical North American College Oct. 3. More young people are discerning vocations on social media and online
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — Several religious congregations and organizations are taking advantage of social media to introduce individuals discerning a call to a vocation and the seminary, convent or monastery that fits them.
With more than 1,400 likes on Facebook, the National Religious Vocation Conference takes advantage of social networking, through its Vision Vocation Guide and other outlets.
At VocationMatch.com, also operated by the Chicago-based conference, a questionnaire tells "discerners" — those considering a commitment to religious life — what their seminary, convent or monastery matches are.
People post questions daily about their life circumstances, inquiring about what resources could help them find the right vocation fit, and Vision connects them with the congregation that matches their interests.
Patrice Tuohy, executive editor of the Vision Vocation Guide, said social media has brought the organization to a place greater than it could have been 15 years ago. "As the community's use of social networking has increased, so have inquiries. They have quadrupled since we started having a presence online," Tuohy said.
Vision is primarily a social networking site that attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year. Seventy-five percent of those are new visitors and 5,000 fill out profiles to find their vocational match, according to Vision's tracking records.
Trinitarian Brother Josh Warshak of Baltimore credited Vision with giving him the information he needed in deciding what type of religious life was for him, and he would recommend it to any "discerner."
"I tell people Vision is kind of like eHarmony for those who have a religious vocation, it matches up your personality with the order that fits you best," he said.
Before finding Vision, Brother Josh was focused on becoming a priest but didn't have access to much advice about the topic. "Vision showed me that there are so many other things," he said, which led him to his community, the Order of the Most Holy Trinity.
Brother Josh, who is 25, said his Trinitarian vocations director, at 30 years old, was younger than most in that position and was well plugged in to social media.
The Congregation of Holy Cross — which founded the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the University of Portland — is using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and blogs to promote its retreat weekends and increase general awareness of the congregation on the Internet.
The congregation has 55 men in formation, its largest number since 1999.
"The personal interaction still comes first," says Father James Gallagher, Holy Cross vocations director. "Our social media outlets are just tools we use to help make Holy Cross known, share discernment tips, and help deepen a man's prayer life."
Father Gallagher said a place in social media is a presence he wants.
"That's where young people are finding their news and information and connecting with friends," he said. "We want to have a presence they can find there."