Monday, 10 January 2011 14:22
I'm probably right (though possibly wrong) in claiming that Pope Benedict doesn't personally know the parish priest of Kilmovee, Fr. Vincent Sherlock. I'm certain, however, the Holy Father would approve of the way he is wholeheartedly using the Internet to promote the Gospel message.
Recently, the Pope urged priests, in the words of the tabloid media, to "For God's sake, blog".
Pope Benedict, who, at 82, is hardly one of the Twitter or Facebook generation, maintains priests must make the most of the "rich menu of options" offered by new technology.
Priests are challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources – images, videos, animated features, blogs and websites".
From the 19th century parochial house in Kilmovee, near Ballaghaderreen, Fr. Vincent Sherlock runs two websites, his personal one and the official website for the Diocese of Achonry.www.achonrydiocese.org
is thriving. Nearly three quarters of a million visits have been recorded to the latest version of the diocesan site. As Fr. Sherlock himself points out: "This cannot be bad."
The Moygara, Co. Sligo, native adds: I really believe the diocesan site is very important and it brings the people, places and stories of our diocese to many who otherwise might not be able to keep in touch.
"Also, it helps those of us at home to have a sense of community and awareness of parishes other than our own that share the diocesan name. Bishop Brendan Kelly is very interested in the website and has contributed content to it on a number of occasions, through homily texts and video clips."
Fr. Sherlock has found the 'blogging' activities of other Churchmen, particularly the Archbishop of Boston, Fr. Sean O'Malley, inspirational. He was particularly impressed by the use of photographs to enhance the test of a message.
The Archbishop's message was simple in many ways, just about what he had done since the last blog – parishes and people he had visited, people he met and words he had spoken and heard.
In the words of Fr. Sherlock: "It gave a real sense of life to his (Archbishop O'Malley's) ministry and made his message very accessible."
Fr. Sherlock's personal website, www.sherlockshome.info
, is separate to the diocesan site.
He explains: "I try to keep it updated with bits and pieces, tunes and songs, photos and video links that reflect something of what I'm thinking at a given time or places I've been.
"The feedback to it has been good and it's lovely to get emails and comments from people on some of the 'posts' I've shared. Many of the 'posts' are general reflections or thoughts and some have been a bit more personal, e.g. I wrote a piece after my mother's death, reflecting on her life and her illness (Alzheimers) and while that was somewhat difficult to do, I found it helpful to me - just to be able to write or say the words."I know too, from emails received and comments posted, that others going through what our family went through could share some of the thoughts and memories".
Photographs are central to Fr. Sherlock's blog. He particularly loved taking pictures with his digital camera of 'people enjoying life and being together'. Although not a big fan of scenery photography there are times when the "landscape shouts at me".
Such a moment occurred on the morning of Sunday, November 28 when he drew back the curtains and saw the sun spearing through boundary trees into his snow covered garden.
The following morning, John Murray on his RTÉ Radio One show, invited listeners to send in any photos related to the snowy spell.
Fr. Vincent duly did and the next thing he knew three of his photos had been featured on the evening television news.
As any of his parishioners in Kilmovee will tell you, Fr. Vincent loves to sing whether it be in Church or at social functions.
He is a particular fan of YouTube, stating for someone like him, who loves music, You Tube is 'an amazing ocean of possibility'.
Of his blog generally, Fr. Sherlock says he has tried to keep a balance between the spiritual and the social, the humorous and the serious and perhaps most difficult of all, between the general and the personal."Like all things, chances are I've got it wrong on occasions, but overall it's a good experience and one I'm glad to be involved with."
Fr. Sherlock, who first began experimenting with the Internet and its possibilities for communication while he was based with the Catholic Marriage Tribunal in Galway, isn't a fan of the social networking site 'Facebook'.
"I tried 'Facebook' for a while," he says, " but decided I didn't like it. I know that millions of people use it on a daily basis and enjoy it very much. To me though, and it's only my opinion, there seemed something less than real about Facebook making me "friends" with someone and, while I know that's only a phrase used, it's too important a word (in my book) to equate with the click of a mouse.
"Friends are as good as it gets and good friends are truly a gift. For that reason, I decided not to use Facebook but rather focus on my own blog. It's there for anyone that wants to see it and hopefully is a link with "friends" who read it to see what I'm up to and then get in touch with me. Through it I have managed to keep in touch with friends, re-establish a conversation with some I lost contact with and establish a link with others.
"All in all then, I believe the Internet is a tremendous vehicle for communication.
"Of course it is not without limitations and danger but the fact remains, it opens the world to us and us to the world in a very instant way that really reveals itself when we focus less on the instant and spend a bit of time with a particular site, blog or thought.
"It is in that time good things can be achieved, thoughts can be shared and hope can be reclaimed."
Relevant websites: www.achonrydiocese.org