St. Paul’s mission with new media

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When St. Paul set out on his journey to evangelize, he did so using the latest forms of communication available: the spoken word and ink on paper. More than 2,000 years later, the message is still the same, but advances in technology have provided new ways to carry out the mission of evangelization.

The Daughters of St. Paul in Alexandria have taken up the saint's mission on a global scale using the technology of the 21st century. Today the sisters are in more than 52 countries worldwide and are active on television, radio, the Internet and social media.

The order was founded in 1915 by Blessed James Alberione, who was inspired to start an order that would act as St. Paul the Apostle living in today's world.

"It became clear to him (Blessed Alberione) in that moment to use all forms of communication for this new mission," said Sister Margaret Michael, vocations director for the Daughters of St. Paul. "Whatever new forms (of communication) technology may provide in the future, we want to pick that up and use it for the Gospel."

A group of six sisters operate the Pauline Books and Media store in Old Town Alexandria. A life-size cut-out of Pope Francis can be seen from the front window of their King Street location, providing passersby with a spontaneous photo-op with the pontiff. Inside the store the sisters offer books, DVDs and other items for sale. Visitors also are welcome to visit the chapel located above the store.

"People can come in not just to be fed with the word of God in a book, but they can also come up and pray and really encounter Jesus face to face," said Sister Emily Beata.

The sisters host a number of events at their location, such as talks, retreats, book releases and kid-friendly events, such as the annual Baby Jesus birthday party and All Saints day celebrations.

A group of the sisters takes the mission on the road to surrounding parishes and even surrounding dioceses.

"We will actually bring the books and media to them and set up a mini book store right where they are," said Sister Emily. "We hear a lot of stories of people coming back to the church, the difficulties they are having with their families or personal struggles."

The sisters make it part of their mission to pray for everyone they come in contact with during the day and offer up people's intentions during their evening prayer.

"We are kind of wrapping the whole diocese in prayer before Jesus in the Eucharist," said Sister Emily.

She said that she feels that this year's special dedication as the Year of Consecrated life by Pope Francis has had a renewing effect on the order and the church as a whole.

"It's a real opportunity to talk to people about the gift of consecrated life," said Sister Emily. "It is that added opportunity to invite people to consider, what is the Lord calling you to? How is He inviting you to a more complete offering of your life?"

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015