St. Ignatius of Loyola adopted an ancient rule of the pilgrim: the person accompanying the pilgrim must walk at his or her pace, not going on ahead, not falling behind.
In other words, meet people where they are.
In today’s world, that mandate requires that the Church expands its presence on the Internet, or the “digital continent,” as it was first called by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. That is where people come to find information and build community. It is there that they are formed in the culture.
In order to more fully expand its evangelization outreach to this digital continent, the Diocese of Trenton has just rolled out a newly redesigned website meant to engage visitors, encourage them to discover the ministries and outreach of the Diocese and have access to information that will meet their needs.
“As a Diocese, we want our website to reflect the depth and character of the Catholic faith, and to clearly communicate our vision and mission. We want visitors to discover who we are as a local Church and how we can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Rayanne Bennett, executive director of the Diocese’s Office of Communications and Media.
The decision to develop a more inviting and accessible website was one of several initiatives emerging from the work of a committee on Digital Media and the New Evangelization, which Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., commissioned in 2015. Committee recommendations were also informed by feedback from key staff in the Chancery, including department and ministry leaders.
Through this consultation, it was decided that the redesign would best be undertaken by a company uniquely dedicated to providing engaging websites for Catholic communities. The Communications team selected eCatholic, a company that was launched in 2005 by a parish and youth minister who saw the need for parishes and dioceses to utilize digital technology to reach people where they are and transform the culture. The firm has since done hundreds of Catholic-based websites across the country.
“eCatholic was chosen because they understood best what we needed in a website, they had features that supported our Catholic mission, and they were able to provide a design and format that were easy to update and mobile friendly,” Bennett explained.
Beyond the practical advantages that eCatholic offered, she said, such as the availability of ongoing technical support, was the company’s vision in creating a website for today’s Catholic communities. “We had to do many different things with this one website,” Bennett said.
“The faithful in our community come to the website for information about programs, messages from the Bishop and other resources to help them in their effort to live their faith. At the same time, however, the website had to effectively speak to people who have been away from the Church, and those who want to learn the basics of the faith as they consider Catholicism as a faith option,” Bennett said.
The Diocese’s Communications team put this challenge to eCatholic, mindful of the danger of trying to do too much and succeeding at little, Bennett noted. However, she added, “We were really pleased with their ideas on how to represent all of the functions that the website must serve. They worked it all in, and while it is a robust site, it is pretty simple and easy to navigate.”
Bennett emphasized that the website project was very much a group effort. “We really owe our thanks to Matthew Greeley, associate director of Communications and Media, and Brittany Arnold, digital media coordinator, for taking the reins on the project and making it happen. We also were supported in this by a number of partners, including Mary Morrell, former managing editor of The Monitor, who conducted content consultations with our departments and ministries and wrote a good deal of content, and Jeanne Kysela, former digital media coordinator, who helped us build and connect pages.”
Bennett issued a special note of thanks to the Chancery staff who took part in refining and transitioning their content to the new site. She said, “Some of our people really took full advantage of this opportunity to improve their web presence. And it shows.”
New resources developed for the website include an easy translation function, and an interactive map of local parishes and Catholic schools. In the weeks to come, the Communications Office is developing a mechanism for visitors to submit questions that they don’t find the answers to … including an Ask the Bishop feature that engages Bishop O’Connell in personally answering incoming questions.
The overarching goal of the new site, Bennett said, is to build a relationship with visitors by connecting them with what they seek, as well as by inviting them to get involved in the Church, as supporters, volunteers and participants in the many events and activities planned each year.
Bennett observed that the new website establishes a good working structure through which diocesan departments and ministries can push out content that is being sought by visitors. “With the support and partnership of our colleagues here in the Chancery, we are looking forward to delivering new and helpful content, and we hope to encourage people to come back often to see what else is being made available.”
To visit the new website, go to dioceseoftrenton.org.