Parishes Connect on the World Wide Web
Fox, Tom, National Catholic Reporter
You are a priest or lay minister and have a pretty good sense of what works and what does not in your parish. But you have less of a feel for the lessons of parish life in, say, South Carolina, Florida or California. There are ways to learn. One gaining in popularity is to check out parish experience on the World Wide Web.
Catholics, like others, are finding their way in growing numbers to the Web. It is the fastest growth area on the Internet. Television commercials list URLs (Web site addresses). Every broadcaster or weatherman worth an autumn rain or every radio talk show host raising ire on the waves is handily citing some "dot coms."
Today one either is or is not Web literate. For those who are slowly finding their way to the Web, allow me to help you out. For those with no interest, I respect your peace of mind.
So here's a quick launch onto the Catholic parish Web. I start by turning on my computer and click my mouse on my AOL (America Online) or Netscape icon. I have an IBM compatible at work and a Macintosh at home (I prefer my Mac. Some say Macs are more Catholic). Another click and I am on my AOL main menu or I am being asked for a Netscape password. Either way, I am only a click or two away from entering the Web. There are at least a half dozen "search engines" to look up things on the Web. I often start with Webcrawler. It may not be the best, but it is friendly. AOL introduced it to me. Old habits die hard.
A search box appears and I type the words "Catholic" and "parish," meaning that only Web sites with both words on their home pages will appear.
I wait for 15 seconds and up come the words Documents 1-25 of 669 matching Catholic and parish. The list begins to scroll up:
* Our Community/Saint Anne Catholic Parish
* St. Bernadette's Catholic Parish, Melbourne, Australia
* Most Pure Heart of Mary Home Page
* Resurrection Catholic Parish -- Canton, Mich.
* Current News from Vladivostok and the Russian Far East
* St. Louis Byzantine Catholic Mission Parish
The list goes on. Twenty-five sites appear in all with a bar at the bottom of the page signaling me to click on it if I want to see the next 25. Had I nothing to do, I could read the titles of all 669 Catholic parish sites. But, alas, I head deadlines. Another search engine might reveal many others. Each works in a slightly different way. That's for a different day.
First thing I noticed in my search is that my engine has gathered more than just Catholic parishes. The second thing is that the search is international in scope. The third is that some of the Catholic parishes are Orthodox. (Hadn't thought of this -- but should have.) The Web is full of surprises.
Starting at the top of the list I click on "Our Community/Saint Anne Catholic Parish. …