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Editor-in-Chief

Steve Hewitt - steve@ccmag.com

Contributing Editors

September 2012

Vol. 1 No. 5

Patrick Leinen Rev. Michael Boyle, C.M. Joe Luedtke Matthew Warner Nick Padley Kathleen Conklin Stacey Anttila

Copy Editor Gina Hewitt

7 11 13

ParishSOFT’s Catholic Conection

Meet St. Thomas á Becket Canton, Michigan By Stacey Anttila

Article

The Great Adventure

3

Launching Electronic Stewardship By Travis Gear

Cover Story

Parish WebStore

a new concept whose time has come By Barb Ernster

Engaging Your Parishioners Online

The Rise of Mobile By Joe Luedtke

© Copyright 2012 by Catholic Technology. All Rights Reserved Written materials submitted to Catholic Technology Magazine become the property of Catholic Technology Magazine upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. Catholic Technology Magazine reserves the right to make any changes to materials submitted for publication that are deemed necessary for editorial purposes. The content of this publication may not be copied in any way, shape or form without the express permission of Catholic Technology Magazine. Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Catholic Technology Magazine.

Corporate Home Office Mailing address: PO Box 319, Belton MO 64012 Delivery address: 306 Eagle Glen Ct, Raymore MO 64083 Phone: (816) 331-5252 FAX: 800-456-1868 Highlighted articles are provided by our Partners http://www.ccmag.com/2007_03/2007_03editorial.pdf

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cover story

Parish WebStore a new concept whose time has come By Barb Ernster

C ountless Catholics head to work each day with the goal of advancing the Catholic Faith and ministering to the people of God. Often

they encounter serious obstacles and lack of support from one another and those they are trying to reach. How do we support and unite all the Catholics trying to bring Christ to the world? Parish WebStore was founded to help solve this. Parish WebStore Founder and President Doug Venne, Sr., was interviewed recently. He was an executive at a large retail organization but left it to do something more in service to his Catholic faith. He soon realized there were many Catholic vendors going after the same customer and how much more effective they could be if they were all funneled through one channel that targeted Catholics in the pew—the most likely to purchase their products.

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“Most people don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know that all this information exists out there. If we could pull it all together in one convenient place, it would be their parish website,” said Venne Sr. “Fifteen to 20% of people who are engaged in their faith will find benefit in the site, but we also want to go deeper into the pews to help more Catholics understand their Faith better and grow closer to Christ.” Parish WebStore, in Algonquin, IL hopes to be the Amazon.com for Catholics and more. Its robust website is loaded with over 14,000 Catholic books, study materials, gifts, music, jewelry, art, apparel and other items, offering one convenient location for a full spectrum of Catholic resources.

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COVER STORY

There is also an emphasis on adding content. The best part is, it’s accessible from your own parish website 24/7, offers free shipping on most orders, and gives back to the parish 12 percent of every purchase. Parish WebStore works with numerous Catholic vendors, including Ignatius Press, Ascension Press, Lighthouse Catholic Media, Our Sunday Visitor, Word on Fire and Nelson Gifts as well as smaller vendors like Kids 4 Jesus and Illuminated Ink. They also work with numerous individuals who have authored books or parish/school materials, musicians and speakers. The Parish WebStore business model allows them to continually add products from companies and individuals, and are not hindered by inventory limitations. Venne Sr said his goal is also to support Catholic bookstores who find it difficult to inform people at the parish level that they exist. Parish WebStore is helps stores gain visibility through

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their Catholic Bookstore Locator, and some bookstores supplement their sales by becoming a part of Parish WebStore. He also added, “We have several key ways to work with bookstores as well.” “Matthew Kelly always says, one percent of Catholics read one Catholic book last year. I feel we can influence them by what we expose them to, and we may be able to move that needle to two or four percent, and what an impact that would make on the Church,” said Venne Sr. Parish WebStore concept is spreading Launched earlier this year, Parish WebStore is spreading across the country and already has parishes in every state. As more parishes get online for the first time, or redesign static websites to be more dynamic, Venne Sr anticipates growth to continue and at a more rapid pace. Parish staff members have told Venne Sr. they like the ability to have one site to access Catholic study materials and resources available from a multitude of vendors right from their local parish website. Priests like that they can confidently refer parishioners to their own website to find Catholic materials that reflect the teaching of the Church and are specifically Catholic, such as Bibles. “At Amazon for example, if you type in ‘Jesus’, of the top 20 items, only three are from a Catholic perspective. The others are from any number of perspectives,” notes DJ Venne, Operations Manager. “We find so many people don’t even realize that vast Catholic resources exist which are geared for their daily life experiences, such as healing, financial, marital problems and parenting. We categorize the products we carry according to those life issues so they’re easy to find.”

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COVER STORY

Online shopping growth supports Catholic parishes, publishers and businesses More than 79% of people today utilize the internet, and 67% of those make online purchases. Parish WebStore wants to attract those Catholic shoppers to a place where they can support Catholic publishers and businesses, and help their own parishes with ongoing fundraising. There are over 18,000 parishes with 68 million Catholics in the U.S., and less than 1000 full-line bookstores, said Venne Sr. Ninety percent of Catholics do not have access to a Catholic bookstore, particularly in rural areas. Those shoppers are often turning to Amazon.com which often promotes causes and products directly opposing Catholic teaching. “It will take time to change buying habits of people and how they shop. Many people go to Amazon because they find online shopping easy. That is our focus as well, to make the shopping experience simple and convenient,” said DJ Venne. According to their team’s research, large retailers like Amazon also demand deep discounts of their vendor, which creates a financial hardship and makes it more difficult for Catholic publishers to thrive. “The publishers are really in a quandary, so to help them, the unique model that we built, doesn’t require us to house any inventory. It all resides with the vendor and orders go directly to the vendor. We can reduce the cost of administrative and warehouse functions and provide a greater return to the vendor so they can reinvest in their organizations,” Dhe said. Catholic Technology Magazine®

Technology underlies the experience Parish WebStore is a traditional secured ecommerce site built from an AmeriCommerce platform. The technology team, led by Web Manager Chad Torgerson, has focused their efforts on making the site easy to navigate and find products through a robust search function that draws from a detailed, in-depth product categorization system. When visitors access the site through their parish website, the sale is recorded as coming through that site and the customer receives notice that the parish will receive 12% of their purchase. Parish WebStore keeps pace with what’s new in the Catholic world. The site utilizes iframes as a way to highlight featured products on parish websites. For example, it showcased the movie, October Baby, when it was released on DVD, and is now promoting For Greater Glory. Shortly, it will feature a range of study materials for the Year of Faith. The iframe, which is embedded on the parish webpage, is updated automatically with these featured items. “Banner images also change to reflect the seasons, such as Advent, Lent or a new school year”, said Torgerson. “We constantly put new products based on the latest releases or current themes, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, coming in December.” The system also allows parishes to feature their own particular topics, such as a study program they are using, so that study group members can purchase their own materials. Schools and youth groups can promote specific items to

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COVER STORY

the parish for fundraising efforts. Parish WebStore helps market the featured promotion with website banners, bulletin announcements and pulpit announcements. The company works with the parish staff or volunteers to support their technology needs and post materials, images or HTML codes accordingly. Torgerson said the parish is, in a sense, an affiliate partner of Parish WebStore, and by building an affiliate network at the parish level, they can reach Catholics where they are at and put a vast array of resources at their fingertips. Parish WebStore is working heavily in parishes right now, but also works with Catholic schools, seminaries, religious orders, apostolates and ministries to provide an even greater one-stop shopping experience with fundraising opportunities. The team is adding more content and news and blends the two seamlessly so that as one is browsing the store, the product is seen as a resource along with the content that is being perused. “That’s unique,” said Torgerson. “Our site is more topically focused so that people can find answers to their questions. We’ve taken a lot of time to categorize things that are relevant to what people are looking for.” Pope Benedict has spoken about the importance of reaching people where they are and utilizing the internet and social networking to be effective, Venne added. As Parish WebStore advances, it will include more interactive features, including video content, social media and other resources that Catholics are looking for, among other expansion plans. “Parish WebStore is about all of us in the Catholic faith pulling together—parishes, vendors, bookstores, parishioners—doing what we can to help people wherever they’re at in their faith journey,” said Doug Venne. “We work with anyone who has Catholic products that they would like to get out there to the public. The faith is not just about Sunday morning, but to be experienced and lived all day, every day.”

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PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION

Meet St. Thomas á Becket Canton, Michigan

St. Thomas a’Becket staff and volunteers: Left to right - Anne Truax, Betsy Crapps, Joan Kijek, Cathy Hulett, Fr. Tom Slowinski, Kirste Moline, Stephanie Tierney, Dave Nowicki

By Stacey Anttila

hurch technology is most exciting when great people add their creC ativity and talents to make it work for ministry. Occasionally, even the paparazzi will stand up and take notice! This month, we’d like to introduce you to some of the staff and volunteers who make St. Thomas á Becket parish in Canton, Michigan, a welcoming Catholic home for more than 3,600 registered families in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“Good Morning America, on line two …” Parishioner Betsy Crapps had a great idea back in 2006: invite women to shake the dust off their old formal dresses and put those ruffles and bows to work for a cause. The idea caught on, and Crapps chaired her seventh “Mom Prom” on April 27, 2012. The women-only event is a night of dancing, retro fashion dress-up, and photos with cardboard cutouts (L to R ) K atie Long, “T he Duke” J ohn W ayne, of male celebrities, all for and B ets y C rapps charity. at the Mom P rom Catholic Technology Magazine®

Woven through many decades of styles are stories—from my mother’s vintage formal to I suffered in this gaudy thing for my best friend’s wedding—that generate laughter, friendship, even sympathy and empathy as women of the parish get to know each other a little better. The event has attracted worldwide attention in some 75 countries, earned mention on Saturday Night Live, and brought Good Morning America’s Juju Chang to Canton for an interview that aired on the popular morning TV show. “My goal is for women across the country to hold their own Mom Proms and raise money for causes that are near and dear to their hearts,” said Crapps. That’s exactly what has happened. One parishioner’s initiative inspired 53 groups

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PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION

across the U.S. to hold their own Mom Proms in 2012, raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand, local shelters and food pantries, and dozens of other great charities. “We’re a sisterhood of bad dresses,” said Crapps. (www. momprom.org.) “A vibrant, active parish” Mom Prom is just one example of what’s available to families and members (see the parish’s Get Involved Web page). Cathy Hulett, who uses ParishSOFT to manage records and postings said, “St. Thomas á Becket has something available for every age level, right from the nursery up to our seniors.” Parish youth catch the positive energy and love of Christ from an early age. From their first faith formation classes through the high school youth group, “Our kids have a blast!” reports Hulett. Youth minister Stephanie Tierney also serves as parish athletic director, and she runs the parish Catholic Youth Orga-

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nization (CYO) basketball and Little League baseball programs. The youth center, stocked with futons, TVs, ping pong and pool tables, is a popular hangout for high schoolers, and the sense of belonging children feel translates to some 80 altar servers, 150 youth group members, and youth who transition naturally to roles as Eucharistic ministers, ushers, sacristans, and catechists. The church is their home. Service is what they do, and that bodes well for remaining connected to the faith through their college and adult years. In short, there’s a lot going on here, made possible because the parish has the right people in place to keep the internal gears of parish ministry running smoothly. Staff who embrace their mission Teacher resource coordinator for the parish’s faith formation program, Anne Truax, has worked in the faith formation / religious education office for over 15 years. And she’s put her ParishSOFT data to work in creative ways, producing useful queries and custom reports for staff and catechists…if it’s stored in the system, Truax can use it to serve her faith formation ministry. This year, she returns to the ParishSOFT Users’ Conference, where she’ll teach other parish staff to use their data more effectively in her Reporting for Your Religious Education Program workshop. While Truax dedicates her strengths to faith formation, Hulett serves as central command for parish census and enters all new registrations, complete with family and member records, into ParishSOFT. Keeping that data current is also part of her mission. Hulett reports the number of registered families weekly in the bulletin, and she is confident in

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PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION

her numbers because the parish does a “recensus,” collecting updated information from all families. Going the extra mile Often during her recensus updates to the Family Directory software, Hulett comes across returned mail or changes that leave unanswered questions. For example, when one spouse returns a census form with the other spouse’s name crossed out (a likely indicator of divorce), she uses every avenue to reach the family and determine whether the other spouse is still participating at the parish. Has he or she moved? Should a new record be started? If children are involved, are they living with Mom or Dad? A quick phone call or letter requesting clarification gets Hulett the information she needs to keep accurate records, and she’ll log the date and explanation for changes in the Notes tab in her software, so any other staff member who views the record will know why it’s been changed. Devotion to maintaining accurate parish records is a big component of Hulett’s personal ministry because she knows they are integrally connected to the work of the Church. Good data, entered in a consistent fashion, powers everything: ministries, the Good Friday blood drive, faith formation, financials, pastoral care, reports for the Archdiocese of Detroit, every phone call and walk-in greeted at the front desk. And when staff can operate confidently, trusting that they have the most accurate information available, they can focus less on administration and more on engaging the parishioners of St. Thomas á Becket in parish life.

Administrate

LESS. Minister

MORE! Finally! More time for people!

Moving forward with the tools of the time Looking to the future, business manager Dave Nowicki is not afraid to say, “I’d like to see the paper all go away. I would hope that everything eventually becomes electronic, that everybody is contributing electronically and we have no more envelopes being dropped in baskets. And when we need to communicate with people, it’s done via email, Facebook, or whatever, so if you want to remind somebody there’s a meeting tonight at seven, they get something on their phone.” Hulett is doing her share to move toward less paper. The parish had been maintaining paper registration cards for years, and they continued to record changes in both in the software and the cards for some time. As Hulett gradually enters the records from thousands of registration cards into her ParishSOFT database—marking each card “SEE PARISHSOFT FOR UPDATES”—she’ll help staff save a lot of time searching through paper files. Current records will live in ParishSOFT and Catholic Technology Magazine®

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s d e e S

PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION

Plant the

be backed up in a secure, disaster-proof location. Family photos have been uploaded from the parish pictorial directory into ParishSOFT, and Nowicki likes that this helps put a face with a name during information lookups. Hulett agrees, “When Father has to go out and visit somebody, even when somebody passes away, the first thing we do is pull out our parish directory book and look at their photo. When you have a parish this big, you know the name and face, but it can be hard to connect them accurately.” Now it’s all there in the software, and staff can access it remotely should a pastoral need arise after normal office hours. Parishioners like the Web! According to Nowicki, parishioners have been receptive to all the ways they can connect with the parish using the Web. www. abecket.org is the go-to place for schedules, staff or ministry group information, and sacramental and faith formation resources. Photos previously available only in books are now on the website’s photo history archive, so everyone can access images from the first mass in June 1977 or celebrations from the 1980s. Old booklets, programs, and bulletins have also been scanned and archived as PDF documents on the website, preserving the past. Even Online Giving has been given a warm embrace. “When we went to Online Giving, I expected all the younger folks to jump right in, but the senior parishioners really embraced it,” he said. Hulett, who posts fewer checks and cash gifts these days thanks to the online donors, said, “Online Giving has increased tremendously over the debit process we used to offer. Our snowbirds like that they can set up their contributions to come in while they’re away, and they don’t have to worry about the envelope.” The weekly contribution data Hulett compiles for the parish bulletin reports the usual collection amounts (i.e., budget, collection, Catholic Technology Magazine®

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loose offering, and Online Giving), and the numbers of registered families, envelopes issued, envelopes used, and online givers. The September 9, 2012, bulletin reports that of 2,892 envelopes issued, only 655 were actually used for offertory. Their Online Giving offertory contributions for the week totaled over $7,000—an impressive 27% of their total collection for the week. Currently, parishioners can use the system to set up planned giving to 17 funds. New possibilities could include letting families pay for mass intentions and other program fees. “They will always ask ‘can we charge it?’” said Nowicki. “Now we’ll have the option to say ‘yes’ when it makes sense to do so.” St. Thomas á Becket Catholic Church, established in 1978, is located at 555 S. Lilley Road, Canton, Michigan. Fr. Tom Slowinski serves as pastor. For more information, please visit www.abecket.org.

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The Great Adventure

Launching Electronic Stewardship By Travis Gear

n 2002, John Paul II delivered a very pointed message for the 36th IWorld Communications Day entitled “Internet: A New Forum for

Proclaiming the Gospel”. In his address he exhorted the faithful with the following words: “For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord’s command to ‘put out into the deep...’ The Church approaches this new medium with realism and confidence. Like other communications media, it is a means, not an end in itself.” During the past decade, under the guidance of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Vatican has launched tremendous initiatives to effectively engage the digital world. In essence, they have practiced what they preached. Websites like www.Vatican.va and www.Pope2you.net are being integrated with tools such as the Vatican YouTube channel, an iPhone app, and a Facebook app. The goal of all of these tools is to communicate the Gospel digitally, so that people may encounter Christ physically through their local Catholic community. John Paul II’s message was applicable in 2002 and is even more applicable in 2012. Parish websites, Facebook integration, Twitter feeds, online giving, and many other forms of digital media are crucial to the digital evangelization and the fostering of stewardship. However, as JPII points out, Catholic Technology Magazine®

these tools are simply a means to an end. Thus the question becomes, are your tools being used in such a way that you are reaching an appropriate end? Or more concretely, are your digital communications tools fostering a more fruitful environment of stewardship? Here are a few ideas which you can implement to ensure your digital communications tools are being used effectively: • Don’t feel pressured to use all of the tools at once. If you want to focus on your website, then work on it until you’re satisfied. Or maybe you want to focus on Facebook, or email communication, or some other tool. The point is, take one bite at a time. • Use your chosen tool(s) consistently. If you’re

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focusing on the website, then make it a priority to update the website a couple times a week, or even everyday. Enthusiasm for a parish website is always highest immediately after the launch; capitalize on this enthusiasm early on to help parishioners develop the habit of staying connected to the parish through the web. Frequent updates will build trust amongst parishioners that the particular resource is reliable for current information. • Make sure to inform everyone about the new/improved communications endeavor. Most people will not find out by themselves, so make sure to announce it from the pulpit, on bulletin boards, at council/committee meetings, in the bulletin, etc. A great tool does you no good if your parishioners don’t know about this tool, or are not encouraged to embrace this new adventure. It is easy to see the results of effectively used digital communication tools. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been responsible for facilitating some of the fastest developing social movements and phenomenoms in history. Let us continue to heed the words of Pope John Paul II (which have been continually reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI), and “Put out into the deep!”

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Engaging Your Parishioners Online

The Rise of Mobile By Joe Luedtke

ast week, the iPhone 5 was released. Five million iPhones were preLordered prior to the release, people were selling their spots in line

at the Apple Stores for a few quick bucks, and amazingly economists predict that the iPhone 5 will actually measurably move our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Yes, a Smart Phone can help accelerate the US further out of the recession! So what does this mean to us? Do you need to run out and get an iPhone 5? I’ll leave that up to you. I’m staying with my iPhone 4s for a while longer and I’m sure there are plenty of you out there that are very happy with your Android phone. What it does mean though is mobile computing has reached its prominence and we all need to be there. A 2010 study by Microsoft predicted that by the end of 2013, there would be more smartphones surfing the web than there will be PCs and laptops. The same study said that the average American spends 2.7 hours per day socializing on their mobile device. At first, I thought that was ridiculous, but walk into an elevator or Catholic Technology Magazine®

look around a Starbucks these days. What are people doing? They’re staring at their phone! For the average church it means now that we now need to focus on ensuring our website works on mobile phones. The smartphones today will serve up most websites. In fact, probably all websites will run on a smartphone unless they’re rely heavily on Adobe’s Flash product. The iPhones still won’t support Flash and the Android phones will be dropping support for it in the future as well. However, just running your website isn’t enough. Is it useable on a smartphone? Do a simple test. Try accessing your church’s website on a smartphone. Can you read the

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Engaging Your Parishioners Online text or is it to small? Now, try and do the three most common things people go to your website for: find your mass times, contact phone numbers and email addresses, and directions to your church. If you can’t do these simple functions on your church’s website, you’ll be literally missing over half of the your website’s potential users next year. All church websites need to support mobile. You don’t necessarily need an App, in fact, I would advice against it, but you do need a website that’s mobile aware and adjusts to whatever device your parishioners and visitors are using to find you. Unfortunately, very few church website products currently do this. At Liturgical Publications, we just revamped our church website builder, WeConnect, to be fully mobile aware. The website adjusts dynamically to the size of the browser window and the device you’re using. We believe there’s really only two core functional requirements that every church website needs to have:

Degree in Computer Science to update your church’s home page; you should only need to reasonably comfortable using Microsoft Word. • Your website should be useable on any Internet Device. PCs or Macs, iPads, IPhones, or Androids. We may be passionate about our faith, but in terms of technology, we need to be agnostic. If you’re website doesn’t work on smartphone effectively, I would encourage you to talk to your website vendor. If you’re looking for a new website, please check out our product at www.weconnect.com. For more on the impact of Mobile Technology and the Church, please check out our presentation on Slideshare.Net. Joe Luedtke is the President of the E-giving Division for Liturgical Publications Inc (LPi), www.4LPi. com, an organization that provides print publications, communication solutions, and online donation services to Catholic parishes. At LPi, Joe serves as the organization’s technology evangelist responsible for the organization’s digital strategy and its Internet products and services. Joe and his wife along with their two children live in Wisconsin. Joe can be found online on his blog CatholicTechTalk. com and can be reached at JLuedtke@4LPi.com.

• The content on the website must be simple to maintain. You shouldn’t need a Masters Catholic Technology Magazine®

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September 2012 Issue

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