Region priests, like the Rev. Kevin McCarthy and the Rev. Benjamin Ross, admire and praise the Catholic Theological Union in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.
For more than 40 years, Catholic Theological Union at Chicago has been educating and preparing men and women throughout the world. Founded in 1968 in the spirit and vision of the Second Vatican Council, CTU has grown to be the largest Roman Catholic graduate school of theology and ministry in the United States. The student body represents 46 countries worldwide.
Among courses taught, emphasis is not only reflective of studies surrounding the faith-based traditions and theories from the roots of religion but also dedicated discussion and coursework about the future of faith.
Johan Alexander Castañeda, 27, of Chicago, is a CTU graduate student in his final year of studies now enrolled in the course Communication Skills for Ministry: Digital Media Arts, exploring new ways today's social media tools can reach a new generation to embrace faith and religion.
The course uses textbook tools such as "Click 2 Save: Digital Ministry Bible" by Elizabeth Drescher and Keith Anderson (2012 Morehouse Publishing) and "The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways" by Meredith Gould (2013 Order of Saint Benedict Press). It is taught by Eileen Crowley, associate professor of liturgy and worship arts, who holds her master's degree from University of Notre Dame and Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary.
"Social media is an area the church has now found itself forced to engage in, as the means to reach young followers," Castañeda said.
"As churches fear a future of empty pews, the one place where everyone can be found in the future is the online community."
Castañeda reminds that even Pope Francis in his public addresses has mentioned the "digital highway."
"The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope," Pope Francis said at the 48th World Communications Day in June 2014.
"By means of the Internet, the Christian message can reach 'to the ends of the earth' (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the church is the home of all. Are we capable of communicating the image of such a church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts."
Castañeda, in his research and studies, likens this new and uncharted territory for using technology to bring church teachings to new generations as today's method for missionary efforts.
"Technology and social media like Twitter and Facebook is the latest way of modern missionaries," Castañeda said.
"Centuries ago, it was a face-to-face, one-on-one ministry used to find the people. Today, those same people looking for faith are the masses of today's new media. You don't have to be a priest or a religious sister or a seminarian to preach and reach beyond the pulpit. With followers from online, we are all ministers able to spread a message. "
FYI: Visit ctu.edu for more information about programs and classes offered at the Chicago campus in Hyde Park.