From rotary phones to smart phones, from typewriters to keyboards, from the U.S. mail to email, the way the world communicates has drastically changed in the 50 years since the Diocese of Beaumont was formed. In 1966 the only wireless, hand held communicators were the ones on “Star Trek.”
Back then there were no cell phones, no texting, tweeting, email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or world wide web. Communicating with the faithful presented a completely different set of challenges.
In 1966 letters were written using a typewriter, copied on a mimeograph, and then mailed. Then they had to be delivered. To reach all parishioners meant putting something in the Church bulletin, sending them all a letter or calling them all individually. Then came the fax machine, but not everybody embraced it.
The first fax machine at the Pastoral Center had to be hidden because Bishop Bernard J. Ganter was hesitant of using this new device. The Diocese got its first computer in the mid-1980s. Computers were called “Word Processors.” These “word processors” were soon to become major communication tools.
The World Wide Web revolutionized communication in 1989. Now one person can reach an unlimited population instantly.
For example, St. Anthony Cathedral Basilica, Beaumont, uses a web-based program called GroupCast. Someone simply records a message and GroupCast calls everyone on the list with that message. If the person doesn’t answer, it will leave the message in voice mail. GroupCast then sends those people a text to notify them of the message in their voice mail.
It can also be used for group texting. Bill Gier, volunteer parish director of promotions and communication, plans to reach out to everyone in the parish this month and ask them to send a text to opt into the program.
This system was used to let the parish know about ,Bishop Curtis J. Guillory, S.V.D. celebrating a special Mass after the Orlando night club shooting. The message went out 24 hours before the Mass and the cathedral was full for the Mass. In 1966 this would have required a lot of people making last minute phone calls.
Gier also uses Facebook to let parishioners know about upcoming events. He said Facebook has been great for evangelization. He posted a picture about a group going through the Holy Door in the cathedral. Soon he started getting calls from other parishes and groups that saw the post and wanted to also visit the Holy Door.
In addition to parishes utilizing social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also used by the diocese to connect the faithful to the bishop.
Bishop Guillory does a weekday video message “For the Good” that is televised every weekday morning on KFDM. One way the diocese uses Facebook and Twitter is to remind the faithful that they can also see this message on the diocese’s YouTube channel in case they missed it when it ran on KFDM.
This helps the faithful feel more connected to their bishop and diocese. Bishop Guillory also connects through Twitter to personally communicate to the faithful.
Facebook and other social media are used to connect the faithful in other ways as well. The diocese uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to post pictures and videos from special Masses and events. This includes the Bishop’s Faith Appeal Intentions Mass, the Institution of Acolytes, Chrism Mass and of course the anniversary celebration.