WNYC Illustration - Visiting the WNYCatholic FaceBook page with its new timeline will open up a window to major events in the history of the Diocese of Buffalo, like the episcopal ordination of Bishop Edward U. Kmiec.
If there’s any one arm of the Communications office that has expanded more than others in the past year, it’s been our efforts to employ social media to spread the message of the Diocese of Buffalo more effectively.
“Social media has become an important part of the overall diocesan communications strategy,” said Kevin A. Keenan, diocesan spokesman. “Since we established a presence on Twitter and Facebook three years ago, we have been able to directly connect with Catholics, non-Catholics and the media in Western New York and beyond.”
Keenan manages the diocesan Facebook and Twitter (twitter.com/buffalodiocese) accounts, and posts updates about various subjects, including Catholic education, Blessed John Paul II and Venerable Nelson Baker. He also posts statements from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec on occasion.
“(Social media) allows for instant communication with people, getting them an unfiltered message,” Keenan said. “Social media is another tool that we are effectively using to evangelize and it’s important to note that it also provides us with instant feedback from people in the diocese. It offers a snapshot of what people are thinking, and that type of two-way dialogue is very helpful.”
Social media became a huge benefit to diocesan communicators the last week of May, when it was announced that Bishop Richard J. Malone would become the 14th bishop of Buffalo in August. Administrators used the Facebook and Twitter platforms to update followers with news and photos. Bishop Malone even became a trending topic locally on Twitter the morning of the announcement.
In addition to the main diocesan accounts, the Western New York Catholic also uses social media to distribute news and stories about what’s going on throughout the diocese and the Catholic Church itself. Our Twitter feed (twitter.com/wnycatholic) is updated throughout the week with local stories linked to our website, and short news about clergy assignments and various events. In addition, we often retweet updates from other feeds that impact the national and international Church as a whole.
The Western New York Catholic Facebook page (facebook.com/wnycatholic) offers many of the same updates as our Twitter feed, and more. Facebook recently redesigned many of the user’s home pages to a “timeline” layout, which allows users to post and backdate important events during their lifetimes prior to joining Facebook.
At the Western New York Catholic, we saw an opportunity to create a site that we’ve been unable to create in the past due to various limitations, that is, to establish an online visual history of the Diocese of Buffalo through Facebook’s timeline feature. Over the past two months, we’ve slowly but surely populated our Facebook page with important landmark dates, starting with the life story of the most recognized local Catholic ever, Father Baker. Father Baker’s pastoral history, beginning when he entered the seminary in 1869 to his death in 1936, is included on our Facebook timeline. We’ve even included the significant dates on Father Baker’s canonization process, such as the Vatican’s 2011 declaration that he exhibited “Heroic Virtue.”
Beyond Father Baker, we’re also working on the personal histories all of Buffalo’s bishops. The key points of Bishop Kmiec’s and Archbishop Henry J. Mansell’s lives are completed, and we’re slowly working our way back through history. As we reach back farther and farther into the past, the process of researching and discovering old photographs becomes quite a bit more extensive, but we feel the end result will be worthwhile to our Facebook fans.
In addition to timeline, we’ve created several new photo galleries exclusive to Facebook, such as the coat of arms of the bishops who have led the Diocese of Buffalo, a guide inside SS. Peter & Paul Church in Hamburg and the recent Diocesan Youth Convention. If you like what we’re doing on Facebook and want more, be sure to tell us – assuming you “like” us, of course.
Daybreak TV Productions offers a Facebook page that not only features information about upcoming programming and clips from shows like “Our Daily Bread,” but the page also offers a more relaxed atmosphere for fans, delivering recipes and bits of religious trivia.
Social media has allowed diocesan Communications departments to expand their ministries in their own way in an immediate fashion that is simply not possible with the production schedules of television and the newspaper. The format was extremely helpful during the winter, when Catholic leadership rebelled against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, as well as the announcement of Bishop Malone's appointment to Buffalo, which missed the print newspaper deadline.
“We are using social media to inform people about the very latest news on the HHS mandate, the Church’s position and teaching on the issue, how to advocate for change and we are providing links to resources,” Keenan said. “I think people appreciate the fact that they can very easily and very quickly receive official Church information about the mandate, and our social media sites will be active in the coming months in advance of the November elections, as we promote Faithful Citizenship.”
The Catholic Communication Campaign will take place in parishes June 9-10. To donate to the campaign, click here.
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