Thomas Krug watches Ana Colliton at work on her blog. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)
BLOOMFIELD – Catholic bloggers can connect to the faithful and to the broader community in the Archdiocese of Hartford and around the globe. They are populating the blogosphere with messages that inspire, sustain and strengthen faith.
There is no telling how many Catholics in the archdiocese maintain spiritual blogs. But "Spiritual Devotional," a blog created by a parishioner at St. Peter Claver Church in West Hartford, has readers in more than 50 countries on six continents. Other blogs that originate within the archdiocese include "Come Holy Spirit," written by Father Michael Slusz, pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Naugatuck; and "Ana’s Blog," authored by Ana Colliton, a sophomore at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford.
The term blog, a blend of the words Web and log, was coined just 15 years ago. It refers to a Web site or part of a site that is updated regularly, usually by an individual, with commentary called entries or posts. Blogs have become increasingly popular as readily available blog hosting software and services make it easy for almost anyone to create and update a blog.
Worldwide, there are approximately 156 million public blogs in existence. It is estimated that, on a monthly basis, 356 million people read blogs. Within the collective community of all blogs, the blogosphere, there are thousands of Catholic blogs.
"Come Holy Spirit" and "Spiritual Devotional" are both listed with the Catholic Blog Directory (http://catholicblogs.blogspot.com) and with St. Blogs Parish, (http://stblogsparish.com). The latter is not an actual church but a loosely knit group of Catholics who maintain personal blogs. The Catholic Blog Directory lists more than 2,600 blogs; St. Blogs Parish lists approximately 2,000 blogs.
Numbers like that make it easy to understand why Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, describes Catholic bloggers as an "extraordinary reality in the life of the Church."
During an informal gathering at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh last summer, he said bloggers "can give a reach out into broader communities. And that’s important."
"Bloggers reach places that we’re not going to reach" with traditional media, he said.
Father Slusz has been reaching out daily since July 2010 with posts that are generally just 200 to 400 words long. They are spiritual reflections based on the daily Gospel reading.
He describes his blog, which can be accessed at frslusz.blogspot.com, as "a nice quick reflection on the Scripture to help [readers] better understand the Scripture message and [its] potential application to their lives."
Father Slusz said, "The Holy Father’s encouragement to use social media to reach out to people and bring the Gospel message to them using all avenues that we have" led him to create the "Come Holy Spirit" blog.
Occasionally, parishioners comment on his blog when they see Father Slusz after Mass.
"I may get two or three people a month that say something about the blog. They say that I inspired them, or touched them, or that through a reflection they saw things from a different perspective," he said.
Not all bloggers experience face-to-face exchanges with their readers.
"Spiritual Devotional," which can be accessed at spiritualdevotional.blogspot.com, was created by a self-described soccer mom who prefers to remain anonymous. While she may never meet the people who read her blog from such countries as Malaysia and Russia, she occasionally receives e-mail messages that express appreciation for her posts.
"I had an e-mail from a clergy member who said, ‘It’s stunning; it’s soulful writing.’" She recalled that another said, "You’ve inspired me; it’s beautiful writing; you are teaching all of us."
"Spiritual Devotional" was created for a "multitude of reasons," she said. "One was to figure out for myself what it means to be a Catholic today. So, I just started writing something that I would want to find."
She began in January 2011, and except for in July and August, she posts new entries twice a week.
"Sunday is always the reading from Mass; it follows the liturgical calendar," she said. Midweek posts follow a theme or are inspired by current events.
She starts each post with a Scripture passage. "I always give the reference so that people can look it up," she said. She also may write a little bit about the context of the passage.
"Then I tell a personal story and relate it to parts of my life because I want people to see the Bible as relevant today," she said. She ends each entry with a prayer.
"It’s not a typical conversation that people have and, in fact, some have said, ‘How incredibly daring for you to actually talk that openly about your faith to the world,’" she said, "but I think that’s what we’re supposed to be doing."
"It’s not a substitute for Mass but it’s a starting point and it’s a way to start people talking about and thinking deeply about spiritual issues," she said. "I think there is spiritual hunger in the world."
Teen blogger Ana Colliton also began blogging to help others. She entered the blogosphere at the request of Janine Cote, director of religious education at St. Peter Claver.
"She asked if I would like to do something for the church that would show new … use of technology through the parish Web site," said Miss Colliton.
"Ana’s Blog" is relatively private, only accessible to parishioners who register on the parish site. Each week, Miss Colliton creates and posts a reflection about how teens can live in Christ every day.
She said she is happy to do her part to help people "better connect to God, our community and our Church."