The new Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis Schnurr on Thursday held a video conference with nine Cincinnati-area Catholic high schools. He took questions from students in the archdiocese’s widest test of the technology yet.
The 61-year-old Archbishop Schnurr conducted the event while seated among two dozen La Salle High School seniors in the school’s media library. The Cincinnati Inquirer reports that small real-time images of students at the other schools appeared on a web page that was projected onto a wall’s large white screen.
The technology, an internet videoconferencing service that costs about $400 per month, generally worked throughout the event. Those schools with technical difficulties had their students text message or phone their comments.
Students reported that some questions were prepared or refined by adults.
Responding to one question, the archbishop explained that his first priorities are to spread Jesus’ teachings and to get youth more involved in the Church.
La Salle senior Andrew Engel voiced concern that many parishes don’t have youth ministries.
Archbishop Schnurr said that parishes should incorporate young people into their councils and committees.
"But I also encourage young people not to stand back and wait to be invited," he said. "Step forward and say you want to be part of this."
Students asked about just war ethics, whether the archbishop was concerned about losing Catholics to large non-denominational Protestant churches, and what he planned to do to bring more young people into the priesthood.
Other questions concerned falling Catholic school enrollments and how to increase pay for Catholic school teachers.
The archbishop reported that lay people such as financial professionals, attorneys, business owners and doctors are offering him help to find better ways to funds schools and teacher’s salaries.
"Over the years our schools have become out of range for some families who live in poverty," he said. "Our schools are there to present the teachings of Christ to everyone."
Archbishop Schnurr, who owns an iPhone, added that the Catholic Church should deliver Christ’s teaching in new ways, using technology. He encouraged churches and schools to promote a “culture of vocations’ so youth can hear God’s call.
"This is venturing into a whole area of communications that is new to me," the archbishop said of the video conference. "But I think it's good."
He told the Cincinnati Inquirer the technology may be a valuable communication method for the archdiocese, which covers 19 Ohio counties with 114 schools and almost 45,000 students.
David Volk, La Salle’s technology director, said that Archbishop Schnurr could hold “fireside chats” with parishioners without leaving his office.
"I wouldn't say this is cutting-edge technology, but it's pretty awesome for a high school to do," he remarked.