It was twenty years ago that the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch launched its first website. At the time I was working for a few hours each week at the diocesan Catholic Education Office and was beginning to discover the potential of the internet for communication and evangelisation. My suggestion that our diocese develop a website fell flat with a number of Education office staff and priests of the diocese who commented that the internet would surely be a passing fad (like Gestetner printers, microfiche and fax machines).
As a result of the general lack of support for the idea I shifted into my usual think laterally and positively gear and discovered a student at nearby Cathedral College who had shown considerable skill in web design. My thought was that if I could get him to build a website that I could show to the bishop then the matter would be settled and the diocese would have a website.
My plan worked. Jeremy Scott produced a great website, easy to navigate, and full of good information. We showed it to Bishop John Cunneen (who always liked to be thought of as up-to-date) and he was convinced agreeing to write a welcome message for the site. So on Mission Sunday 1997 the first website for the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch was launched.
In the two decades since, the internet has become an important part of the lives of people of all ages. Small children navigate the web instinctively and, as shown by our recent Food For Faith for Lent mission, elderly and homebound people use their computers and ipads to receive inspiration and encouragement, and to stay up-to-date with the world. Fr Jack, my 87 year old uncle who lives with me, constantly updates me with news that has just popped into his iphone or ipad.
In recent years our Christchurch Diocese website had become clumsy to navigate and out of date. The building of a website is one thing, but it must be maintained, not as a volunteer hobby but as a priority of an institution that acknowledges that in the internet we have a tool for evangelisation second only to personal contact and encounter. It is significant that the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century sparked the church into action printing Bibles and other evangelisation material.
Today the Christchurch diocese has launched a new website, up-to-date, attractive and easy to navigate. Thanks to Jason McTague (of Food For Faith fame) for his work in building and maintaining this new diocesan website. Tap on the image below to visit www.chchcatholic.nz