Social media – what happens when age 18 meets the Bishops Conference?

By Pat Ransom

As an 18-year-old in between jobs and about to move out of town for university, I was in a position in which I had about a week of time I needed to fill.

Rather than spending this time eating all the food in the house and spending 12 hours a day on the computer slaying dragons, I elected to go in search of volunteer work for this short period.

As it would turn out, I ended up spending this week working at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and it’s been a fantastic learning opportunity, seeing the inner workings of the Catholic Church and the contributions the people there make to spreading the message of the Christ.

Working with the ACBC staff was a great learning experience. First and foremost I will say how sweet it is to be doing work outside of retail. It was incredibly refreshing to work with such a level-headed group of people, in contrast to the frantic and perma-stressed behaviour of people I’ve worked with prior.

Even though I was the youngest in the building, the staff at ACBC were very welcoming, in spite of some of my strange habits such as working in an office with the lights off (I like the feel of working in a cave) and leaving a pleasant smell of tuna in the kitchen and lunch room after meals (I like eating tuna).

From my time spent in the ACBC secretariat, I was given a little insight into the organisational side of the Catholic Church.

I feel I gave the ACBC the opportunity to learn a little more about the youth of the Catholic Church through my presence here also.

As a member of the generation born and raised with computers, my knowledge proved useful to those I was working with. I successfully managed to install Google Chrome onto each computer I worked on, and was happy to give a tutorial on why I preferred it to browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Living in my technology-bubble, similar to most people my age, in this setting I quickly realised not everyone had been brought up being dependent on computers to complete their day-to-day activities! Shocking!

I lent a bit of my knowledge on some more trivial computing issues to my co-workers. My skills proved useful, giving brief tutorials on anything from ‘podcasts’ to some of the Adobe range of programs.

From what I’ve seen at the ACBC, the Church is moving forward in leaps and bounds in regard to its use of the ‘new media’/social media for spreading its message.

Growing up surrounded by technology, Catholics in their teens and early twenties have developed an affinity with glowing screens and a need, a hunger to be able to stay in touch with all that is around them with the click of a button. (Hey, I’m listening to my iPod and have Facebook open on my phone as I type this.)

As society moves forward with advancements in communication and social networking technologies, so too should the Church. Indeed, it should expect to continue to have its messages heard as far and wide as possible – not limited solely to the constraints of paper and preaching.

Being able to see messages or words of wisdom from priests/bishops or just having an online ‘hangout’ for people of similar beliefs is incredibly uplifting to those whose online social interactions have become as integral to their personal development as the physical.

I feel my presence at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has been fruitful to both sides and definitely look forward to working with the team in the future!