Computer Missionaries

Computer Missionaries

by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM            Ireland        09.10.2022

This month, October, is the month of the Missions. Traditionally this meant men and women travelling to far off places and ministering to those who had not yet heard the Gospel message.  I, myself, travelled to Brazil in 1977 and spent many years there.  But the other day I came across an interview with Lucio Ruiz, Secretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, that intrigued me and set me thinking.  This is part of what he said:

“I used to tell the computer missionaries that our time, our affection, our conversation and our faith are all real. The only thing that is digital is the medium through which we connect, but there is nothing virtual in the link. It’s important to understand that because digitality allows us to be in places, sharing with those who are far away.”

The pandemic has taught us many lessons, and our use of the digital world is one of them. Can I reach more people, in a meaningful way, online, than if I travelled abroad?  If so, what message do I want to get across?  Can I be respectful and listen to what I hear and learn about another culture?

I now believe that every time I sit at my keyboard and interact with others far away, I need to do it from the depths of my missionary being.  Does this abolish the physical presence?  Of course not.  Family like to meet and celebrate together and that is what we are a Church.  But I have come to see how important the online presence is as well.

Let me tell you my own conversion process. When the pandemic began, I was living in U.S.A., in Boston.  The local churches were closed, and we were encouraged to attend Mass on the T.V. or the computer.  I hated it.  I thought it was second best to a live presence.  Then over the months I began to explore other liturgies on my own computer.  I found the local TV channel from the National Shrine of Our Lady in Brazil, TV Aparecida.  I joined in the Portuguese Mass and sang along with gusto, somewhat homesick for my beloved Brazil.

When I returned to Ireland, I was in lockdown again. This time I enjoyed searching for a “community of belonging” via the Internet. I found the Redemptorists in Belfast. Ironically, I had returned to my birthplace to set foot digitally in a church I had never visited in all my years growing up. I now attend Clonard regularly and it anchors my day.  Daily the Redemptorists reach into my life as missionaries and I will probably never meet them.  But it is real and has helped my daily life.

Learning to be “computer missionaries” will be part of being Christian in this century.  I am only taking baby steps, but I want to continue on the journey!