Pastor turns to social media to distribute Lenten messages

Faithful Catholics at St. Ignatius of Antioch Church are increasing – rather than giving up – their devotion to the Internet during Lent.

The parishioners, and anyone with Internet access, can accept daily Lenten challenges, selected by St. Ignatius’ pastor, Father Titus Augustine, C.M.I.

A graduate of Tolani College of Polytechnic in his native India, Father Titus holds a degree in engineering and was ordained a priest in 1999. He uses, in part, Lenten reflections from Bishop Robert Barron’s website, and the early response has been encouraging.

“Surprisingly, my background in engineering did not give me the idea for this outreach, but I did always have a passion for computers, electronics, and stuff like that,” Father Titus said.

“This year, I decided that this project might be a good way for people to get a Lenten lesson on their various devices, since the messages are already available and any parish can access them,” Father Titus said.

In fact, diocesan churches can view the messages for free during Lent.

Father Titus uses the Flocknote program to distribute the messages, “which allows its user the option of sending them to hundreds of people at a time,” he said. “And I also use it to send announcements through our church’s email bulletin, community updates, etc.”

St. Ignatius is a very diverse parish and boasts 700 registered members, Father Titus said.

Father Titus plans to continue using the messages after Lent, “because there are so many different subjects available (in Bishop Barron’s library and Scripture) that you can utilize, and it is a wonderful thing in that people don’t have to go anywhere to experience it.”

Based on the first several days following Ash Wednesday, apparently many of the faithful agree.

“Quite a few people have told me, just in casual conversation, that they think this is a wonderful way to celebrate Lent, and we have seen an increase from 42 percent to over 70 percent in ‘views’ since early February,” Father Titus said.

Father Titus added that Lauren Jameson, St. Ignatius’ youth director, “usually helps me with it, and often prepares the Flocknotes content.”

Father Titus’ personal Lenten favorite “comes from St. James, Chapter 4, which says ‘draw near to God and he will draw near to you; cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.’”

A brief look at another lesson – for Day 5 –finds this straightforward Lenten Challenge: “Choose a weekday Mass to attend.”

Another lesson or challenge, asks the equally simple question, “Where is there excess in your life?”

Traditionally, Lent is a time for simplicity. It is a time for you to take an inventory of your life. The lesson then asks the question, “Where is there excess in your life? Is this excess taking you away from the one thing that matters the most, to be a son/daughter of Christ?”

And the Flocknote for Sunday, Feb. 23, asks this question: “Which command from Jesus has been obeyed the most?” The answer is: “Do this in memory of me,” which, the lesson says, happens many times every day during Masses celebrated throughout the world.

Like several other lessons, it is followed by a short video.

Chris Segroves, a parishioner at St. Ignatius, has viewed two Flocknotes messages thus far.

“I use my mobile phone, and today’s message was particularly well done – about sharing a meal among friends,” Segroves said.

“It’s pretty neat overall, and I like the videos because a lot of the Catholic churches around here are now getting into the new technology, plus the times that these messages arrive are different every day and more flexible” for someone on a tight schedule, Segroves said.

Deacon Bob Ochoa is equally positive about the Lenten challenges. “They definitely resonate with the message of Lent, and get us out of our little box, while helping refresh the real meaning of Lent.”

“My favorite one thus far has been the message where you offer a prayer for someone instead of simply going on the Facebook page; you think of someone, and with my grown daughter – who is 28 – we used Facebook in a different way to find someone in need to offer a prayer for,” Deacon Ochoa said.

Deacon Doug and Chris Shafer are retirees and members of St. Ignatius parish who took one of the season’s earliest challenges quite literally.

“The first one was called ‘If you snooze, you lose,’ and it’s something that we try not to do; it appeared if I’m not wrong, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday,” Deacon Shaffer said.

“The wife and I have found the messages to be very enjoyable, because Lent is a time for reflection, and every one of these challenges is a reminder of Lent. Plus, you can save them to revisit later,” Deacon Shaffer said.

St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church is located at 601 Bell Road in Antioch. The phone number is 615-367-0085.