I recently came across a tech blog announcement about the hiring of Thomas Sanjurjo as “Electronic Outreach Director” at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida. As a parish webmaster myself and someone who is vitally interested in the Church’s use of social media technologies to reach and to serve our parishioners, I reached out immediately to Thomas to learn more about his role at Nativity and his perspective on these tools. I’m pleased to share the following conversation with Thomas and hope that the role of “Electronic Outreach Director” will soon be as common as the DRE or the music director in large parishes.
Q: Could you kindly begin by introducing yourself and your family to our readers?
Hello everyone, I’m Thomas Sanjurjo, Electronic Outreach Director at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida. My family and I are blessed to be part of such a forward looking parish that so fully embraces the mission of evangelism to all places where there are people seeking God. I am seven years married to my college sweetheart, Alicia, and have four beautiful children; we’re on the “every other year” plan with our oldest being six and our youngest just two months. Alicia and I are also RCIA ‘graduates’, and a large part of what brought us to the Catholic Church was our conviction about birth control and finding the Natural Family Planning resources to be almost entirely Catholic.
Q: Congratulations on your recent appointment at Electronic Outreach Director at Nativity Catholic Church in Brandon, Florida. Your hiring certainly signals a wonderful trend for our Church — the entry into serious consideration of the electronic media in the Church. How did you happen to land in this position and what are your major duties and responsibilities?
I was actually applying for a position as a Communications Director at a local Catholic High School and asked our Pastor for a letter of recommendation, he told me that he would write the letter, but for me to hang on for a bit as the staff here at Nativity were planning on creating a position I might be interested in. When he and our Faith Formation director told me more about the position I was inspired to create an outline of what this type of position might be able to do for a parish, the team used that plan to interview me for the position. The basic layout of the plan was for how ministries could be better integrated through the use of online resources like wiki, calendars, and databases and how outreach could be performed through savvy use of social media. I’m beginning to embrace the larger concept of being a “Social Media Strategist” for the parish in trying to involve and educate staff and ministry leaders on the benefits and uses of different platforms.
Q: Are you aware of others in your diocese or in the state of Florida who have a similar role in a parish setting?
I’m a little bit of a Jack-of-all-trades at the moment. There is a similar position at the Diocesan level, but they have the title “Web Administrator” so the focus is less on the Social Media (though I’m working to inspire her to help continue that focus.) Our Diocesan Stewardship Day was all about how to incorporate New Media into the outreach of our parishes, so we’re moving in the right direction!
Q: How do recent writings on the New Evangelization and messages for World Communications Day color your perception of your job and make it about more than simply updating the parish website?
The largest population missing from our pews today is the 18 to 29 year old group. These are the young adults who have left home, are at college or in early careers and don’t yet have a family to keep them grounded in the church. This population is also the majority group in social media. If we, as a church, knew that there was a place that all the people who hadn’t been to church in a while went to hang out, we would send missionaries. Online is no different, it is a tremendous missionary field. We just need to go and learn the language and the culture so that we can spread the good news there as well.
Topics: Social Networking