In July 2010, I attended NDICE (National Diaconate Institute For Continuing Education) at Xavier University in Cincinnati. One of the presenters that year was Greg Kendra, a deacon for the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. Deacon Kendra's presentation was using social media to evangelize. In his talk, Deacon Kendra talked about how the Church would miss a great number of people, especially young ones, if we didn't incorporate social media such as Facebook, Twittter, websites and blogs into our everyday ministry of evangelization. Deacon Kendra had started a blog called The Deacon's Bench. His goal was to ponder and comment on not only things happening in the the Church, but in the world all around us. He also used it to publish his homilies, and to teach why we Catholics do what we do.
I was intrigued by Deacon Kendra's talk, and the possibilities that involving social media would bring to my ministry as a deacon. I established my first blog named Deacon Gerry's Blog the day after I returned home from Cincinnati. As I perused The Deacon Bench and other blogs, I saw neat things like pictures and vidoes embedded in blog articles, and links to other websites. I wondered how all those things were done by the blogger. There was no "Blogging For Dummies" book. It took numerous hours of trial and error learning how to be a blogger. My first goal as a blogger was to disseminate information about the Church, and interesting articles that I found on the Internet similar to Deacon Kendra's.
After I was ordained in 2006, I was assigned to Saint Francis Xavier Church in Mount Washington and All Saints Church in Taylorsville. All Saints had no parish website. Saint Francis Xavier had a website, but it was not being maintained well. So, I started blogs for both parishes. The blogs gave us a way to pass along news to parishioners quickly, including parishioner's deaths, and parish events. We have even conducted a parishioner opinion poll using a gadget available for the blogs.
In October 2010, I truly found the power available in ministry through the social media. Carolyn, the daughter of our business manager at Saint Francis Xavier Helen Hagan, was involved in a serious automobile accident on October 27, 2010. Carolyn was in a coma at the University Hospital Trauma Center for three days. Through Facebook and the parish blogs, updates were provided on Carolyn's condition and prayer requests were put on the Internet. We literally had people praying for Carolyn around the world. I believe all of those prayers were instrumental in Carolyn's complete recovery.
When my wife Mary Jo's lymphoma became aggressive in October of 2012. She went through six rounds of chemo at Baptist East Hospital. Her oncologist advised us that the only hope for a prolonged period of remission was for her to have a stem cell transplant at a regional cancer center. The oncologist put us in contact with a hematologist at Vanderbilt University Cancer Center.
When we first started going to Vanderbillt. I thought that it would be a good idea to start a blog to provide information to our relatives and friends about what was going on with Mary Jo. A secondary motive was to provide information on the stem cell process to other cancer patients.
I named Mary Jo's blog On Our Vanderbilt Odyssey. As Mary Jo's caregiver, it was theraputic for me to be able to share the good, the bad, and the ugly during the entire transplant process from her successful transplant on May 6, 2013 through recovery. Again, people from all over the world were joining our family and friends in lifting up Mary Jo in prayer. I have to admit, I was not the first deacon to use blogging as a means of therapy. Our dear friend Deacon John Simmons became an avid blogger before losing his battle with cancer on March 10, 2011.
I pray that I have had some impact, or helped a few people through my blogging ministry. The viewing statistics for the blogs encourage me to continue for as long as I am able. Here are the statistics at the beginning of 2014: Deacon Gerry's established 7/22/10, 210,451 views; Saint Francis Xavier established 8/11/10, 104,071 views; All Saints established 8/14/10, 133,667 views and On Our Vanderbilt Odyssey established 3/13/13, 18,382 views. Nearly 500,000 views from 21 countries and counting, including a couple from the Vatican.
Thanks to everyone who has read the blogs, and all who have helped me along the way. Deacon Gerry