21st-century evangelization

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Since its creation, the Arlington Diocese has used mass media tools to reach out to the modern world, beginning with the establishment of the Arlington Catholic Herald by Bishop Thomas J. Welsh in January 1976.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde has expanded on those efforts in the 16 years he has served the diocese, evangelizing within Northern Virginia's growing population and beyond. Now in addition to his columns and homilies in the Catholic Herald, the bishop speaks directly to commuters on 103.5 FM WTOP and on YouTube, and sends words of faith and inspiration via Twitter.

In 2013, the bishop's 30-and 60-second radio spots began airing during rush hours and at other times during the day. The bishop's spots have promoted "The Light is On" campaign, which urges Catholics - whether practicing or drifted away from the faith - to go to confession during Lent. Other messages have been evergreen spiritual reflections aimed at people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

"Bishop Loverde always says that it is a blessing to speak to such a wide audience on the radio about the basic truth that God loves them," said Elise Italiano, diocesan director of communications.

It's clear that the effort has made an impact, she added.

"We continue to receive wonderful feedback and appreciation from people throughout the DMV region for Bishop Loverde's radio spots. Most notably, we have had individuals share that they were 'praying for a sign from God' about a particular decision, and upon hearing Bishop Loverde's message, knew what God was asking of them," said Italiano. "This past Lent, one woman wrote to say that after hearing one of his messages on the sacrament of confession, she returned to the church after being away for 40 years. And we've even heard of an account that one message saved a person's life."

The bishop has continued to spread the good news of Jesus Christ on 21st-century platforms, sharing direct messages to Catholics on matters of concern like religious liberty, extending an invitation to attend the diocesan biennial pilgrimage and even hosting a seven-day "online retreat" for married couples on YouTube.

Under Bishop Loverde's leadership, many of the parishes, schools and offices in the chancery have embraced the potential of social media. The Catholic Herald has accounts on Facebook in English and Spanish, Twitter, YouTube, Vine, Periscope and Pinterest. In addition to the main diocesan accounts, the offices of Catholic Schools, Vocations, Catholic Charities, Project Rachel, Gabriel Project, Spanish Apostolate, Young Adult Ministry, Multicultural Office and many others have their own respective Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The bishop's most recent social media initiative is on Twitter, where he posts faith-filled messages and spiritual insights in 140 characters or less. Nearly 1,800 users have followed Bishop Loverde since he sent his first tweet Sept. 26, 2014. That message spelled out the motivation behind his ministry on 21st-century platforms.

His tweet: "Thank you for following me on Twitter! I hope my words lead you to follow #JesusChrist more deeply and faithfully."

Stachyra Lopez can be reached at mstachyralopez@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015

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