A new kind of habit

Emily Branan, Religion Editor

Loyola’s Institute for Ministry received a grant to help seven communities of nuns develop social media skills to spread the word about their ministries.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awarded the $900,000 grant, Communicating Charism, in December. Due to the Hilton Hotel founder’s appreciation of nuns’ work, the institution donates some of its money each year to help nuns around the world.

Charism refers to the spirit that drives the work these nuns do. This grant is specifically aimed at educating communities of nuns in the United States and the African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria about how social media could help increase knowledge of their charisms.

The grant was enacted through a series of meetings that took place from Jan. 19 to Jan. 21 at Loyola. These sessions included discussions of the grant’s plans, as well as presentations from members of the communities that will benefit from it.

One of the days included a social media lesson from Brian Sullivan, instructional and research technologies librarian. He taught them about Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

“It is definitely important that the participants are learning to use these tools because they are easily accessible and broadly used,” Sullivan said.

Thomas Ryan, director of the Institute for Ministry, said the grant’s goal is to help nuns learn how to spread the news of their ministry and to increase membership.

“It is important that the world know about their charisms and what important work they have given life to. Social media will help them get the word out about their charisms and how they’ve been lived,” Ryan said.

Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, assistant professor of liturgy, catechesis and evangelization, has focused her research on how digital media affects ministry. She said the communities of nuns can use social media as an outlet to share their stories and inspire others, as well as receive input.

“For the sisters, it will become a place to listen, to engage with and encounter people, and to share with them the amazing story of their vocation, not only for the sake of sharing it, but for the sake of offering hope, direction, deeper meaning and good news to people today,” Zsupan-Jerome said.

Salt and Light Television, a Canadian Catholic media group, will assist each community in making a 20 to 30 minute documentary, as well as shorter promotional and educational videos. These videos will display the unique aspects of their ministries and the work they do.

According to Ryan, it is especially important that these nuns take advantage of new tools of communication because the Catholic Church has always been one of the forerunners in utilizing innovation in its ministry.

“The codex, or book with pages, was popularized by early Christian missionaries who found this format more efficient than scrolls for communicating text. Similarly, demands for disseminating the Bible and other theological texts drove the development and spread of the printing press,” Ryan said.

Not only will the grant help the participating communities utilize technology in their ministry, the nuns will be able to earn a Certificate in Theology and Ministry from the Institute for Ministry.