Catholic communities are increasingly tapping into modern technology and going where the youth are to attract new vocations – in cyberspace.
A Reuters report recently featured the Congregation of the Mission, founded by St. Vincent de Paul, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, as one group that has joined the technological age at full throttle. The Vincentians have recently launched their own Web site and have been distributing CD-ROMs to potential candidates. They are also planning an advertising campaign in January.
Like many communities, they have gotten older and have shrunk dramatically from 400 in 1976 to less than 200 this year.
The Vincentians decided to use the Internet after meeting consultants who specialize in religious marketing and advertising at a conference last year. The consultants told the community to “get with it” and that if they wanted to be “known, real and relevant” they needed “a Web site that’s known, real and relevant.” The Vincentian Web site address is www.vincentians.net.
The Vincentians aren’t the only ones hoping to profit from the digital age. Many orders have set up their own Web site or have joined the umbrella Web site www.vocations.com.
While the U.S. Catholic population has grown to more than 63 million people compared with 45 million in 1965, new vocations continue to drop. The number of graduate level seminarians in the U.S. is about 3,400 compared with 8,300 a generation ago. The average age of priests has soared from 47 in 1970 to 60 in 2002. There are now more priests over the age of 90, than under 30.