April 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Sisters spread the Word on social media

AMANDA CONNELLY looks at the increasing popularity of a very modern, online approach to evangelisation

TECHNOLOGY and social media have become massive parts of our everyday lives— so big, in fact, that we often forget how much of a role they have to play in our day-to-day existence. How many of us have found ourselves absentmindedly scrolling through our Facebook or Twitter feeds, refreshing our Instagram, or keeping our phones glued to our sides waiting on the latest ping of a text or WhatsApp message to come through?

In today’s world, the message given to us on the need for consumption has developed a fear of missing out.

As we become more engrossed in who’s retweeted or liked our latest status, it is perhaps easy for many to become more interested in the word of the neighbour two-doors-down, or the biggest celebrity of the minute, instead of the Word of God. Yet with the online world such an integral part of many lives, in a planet that becomes ever smaller, enter social media’s latest sign-up: the Catholic Sister.

In a new, modern approach to evangelisation, religious sisters across the world have taken to social media to proclaim the good news, giving a fascinating insight for Catholics and non-Catholics alike into what life is like as a religious woman, and to encourage prayer… all with good Faith, and a dash of humour.

Chicago-based nun Sr Helena Burns is a member of the Daughters of St Paul, and arguably one of the most followed religious women on Twitter.

With more than 27,000 followers, @SrHelenaBurns is proof that despite the increasing secularisation of society, perhaps too the spiritual can still penetrate through this to make a home in today’s world. Posting on topics as far-reaching as theology of the body, philosophy and proof of the existence of God, to her love for coffee and a game of hockey, Sr Helena doesn’t seem like your average nun.

And yet her self-confessed social media addiction is breaking the mould on our perceptions of what it means to be a member of a religious order, and allows God’s love and word to permeate a corner of the world that may not have been so easily reached before.

“I try to really keep up with the comments on my blog, and also Twitter and Facebook,” Sr Helena said in an interview with The Atlantic. “I’m also on Instagram and Vine a little bit. How I do it is during the day, while I’m doing my other work, I’ll keep zipping over to social media.”

The Daughter of St Paul sister, whose Order’s mission focuses on using media more effectively within the Church, sees her social media usage, including posting films on YouTube, as the perfect way to engage others with God.

“I want to use the latest, most modern, most efficacious media and media technology to reach the greatest number of people with the Holy Spirit,” she said.


Electronic evangelisation

Albeit a perhaps unconventional image of how a nun’s life might be, Sr Helena is by no means alone in her electronic evangelisation. In fact, she is just one of a number of religious sisters—young, and not-so-young—using social media for the benefit of bringing God closer to the online community. Hopping over to Instagram, snap-happy Catholics can pour over @happynun1, a group of Salesian Sisters who catalogue both their spiritual and social lives for all the world to see.

Their Instagram handle certainly rings true, as the beaming faces of the nuns and those they work with bounce back at you from your screen.

The nuns are frequently seen socialising with young people, attending various events, and along with a fantastically comical puppet of a Salesian Sister—dressed in full habit—that accompanies them on many of their Instagramming adventures, it’s an attractive image for girls considering answering a call from God to the consecrated life.

A far cry from the perceived stereotype of life as a religious, their social media antics offer a new perspective on the Order, one that can surely only positively encourage vocations in young people. With the number of young women answering a call to a religious vocation smaller than is needed, social media’s nuns are offering an alternative and innovative way to give girls an insight into life as a religious sister.


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