Nuns evangelize young Filipinos through social media7:51 AM, July 31, 2017
Philippines:Daughters of St. Paul congregation adapts to modern times, tries not to be too preachy in their bid to attract youths.
Sister Gemma Ria dela Cruz (center), a member of the Daughters of St. Paul congregation in the central Philippine Archdiocese of Palo facilitates a "mercy caravan" for earthquake victims in the province of Leyte. The congregation is looking to evangelize young people by engaging them on social media. (Photo courtesy of Sister Gemma)
A congregation of nuns is doing its best to "infiltrate" Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to spread the Gospel among young Filipinos.
"It's really challenging," says Sister Gemma Ria dela Cruz, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul congregation in the Archdiocese of Palo in the central Philippines.
The nun notes that the level of "conversation" between young people in social media "is getting low."
She admits that the church needs to keep up with young, technology-savvy people to be able to introduce the message of the Gospel to them.
Sister Gemma, who is secretary of Palo Archdiocese's social communications office, says young people these days talk about themselves.
"That's where we come in," she says, adding the her congregation caters to the vocation of young people "not only for religious life but also for other vocations."
The nun believes that although there are a few of them, social media amplifies their ministry.
"If you're in social media, you post a single verse or teaching, and if you have 2,000 friends, that's enough," she says.
As a "teaching congregation," the Daughters of St. Paul also maintain television and radio programs, a publishing house, and a media center.
Sister Gemma, however, admits that "evangelizing" young people through social media has its drawbacks. "It's a bit shallow," she says.
She says social media is "different from face to face" where one can touch a person. "But then again, communication is communication," says the nun.
She recalls the early days before the internet when missionaries would go "house to house" to evangelize.
"We knocked on the doors, talked to people, and the conversation was deeper. We have quality time with the family and the community," says Sister Gemma.
On Facebook, for instance, "it's sad and different," she says, citing a case when a speech was posted online and garnered over 40,000 likes.
"It could have been a good news story instead of the latest rumors about celebrities," says the nun, although she admits that for young people issues about faith and religion are "not their cup of tea."
"That's where the challenge is," she adds.
She says young people avoid "preachy" topics, which is why "creativity" is important in her work.
"They have a short attention span," Sister Gemma says about young people. "If you do a 20-minute video on YouTube, they will surely leave you," she says.
The nun, however, says she always keeps in mind that she is a religious. "I have to always look at myself, evaluate my actuations, and my way of thinking," she says.
Sister Gemma says while leading a religious life she is not closing her mind to "social issues."
"By virtue of our baptism, we are priests, prophets, and kings. If you are a prophet, you are very much aware of what is happening in society," she says.
"As for us, Daughters of St. Paul, we are called to be prophets, we really have to enlighten people," says the nun.
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