WASHINGTON (March 17, 1998) -- Dozens of religious orders and dioceses host sites on the World Wide Web for vocation recruitment, according to a survey by the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Vocations.
The survey, conducted of members of the National Religious Vocations Conference (NRVC) and the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors (NCDVD) last December, found almost 90 active Web sites.
A total of 24 of the 193 diocesan vocations offices and 65 religious orders reported that they post a Web site. And 26 of them reported that they have candidates for priesthood and religious life whose initial contact with them was through the Web.
Web pages vary in style and scope. Some sites, particularly those of diocesan vocation offices, are a small part of a larger site. Others, chiefly those of religious orders, provide extensive information and are interactive, enabling a person to reach a contact who can respond to them through the Web or mail.
Among dioceses, the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Archdiocese of Newark showed sophisticated efforts.
The Joliet site is the most elaborate and offers a Church vocation survey and prizes. It averages 350 hits a month and has been the initial point of contact by some men currently studying for the priesthood for the Joliet Diocese. Father John Regan, who has a bachelor's degree in computer science, and who is the diocesan vocation director, designed the page.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese site is in both English and Spanish and offers a tremendous amount of information.
The Newark Archdiocese has 24 photos and articles by Newark Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.
Overall, the sites of the religious orders are better developed than those of dioceses. Nearly every religious order site is interactive. At the very least they allow the viewer to send e-mail to a member of the order. The best sites enable the viewer to enter his or her name and address to be added to a mailing list. Of these, some allow the viewer to type in comments and requests.
Among the outstanding sites are those of the Dominican Mission San Jose Sisters, the Jesuit Province in Oregon; the Crosier Fathers; the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Sacred Heart Monastery in Richardton, North Dakota; the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters in Scranton, Pennsylvania; the Wisconsin Jesuit Province and the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
The Mission San Jose Sisters boast an excellent interactive format and advertise their site. They report an average 6,435 hits per month and in the first 11 months of 1997 had 58,193 hits.
The Crosier Fathers and Brothers offers a chat room and buttons to "What's Hot" and a "Send a Prayer" feature.
The Oregon Jesuits offer "Daily Ways to Pray" and links to a 30-day calendar offering spiritual retreat instructions.
The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers site is in English and Spanish and averages 400 hits per month.
The Sacred Heart Monastery provides musical background, offers substantial information and averages 600 hits a month.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters include standard information as well as "Brushes With Fame," a feature that lists famous people, including entertainers Danny DeVito, Patty Duke and Helen Hayes, with ties to the order. It averages more than 300 hits per month.
The survey found that in general the better sites are those associated with religious orders and universities. The finest sites as well as those having the most number of hits are those maintained on a commercial server and produced by a professional webmaster.
Sites which are part of university Web pages tend to be among the most attractive. Examples of such are the sites for the Wisconsin Jesuits, associated With Marquette University, and the Indiana Province of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, associated with the University of Notre Dame.
Bishop Paul Loverde of Ogdensburg, New York, Chairman of the Bishops' Vocation Committee, praised the Internet efforts.
"I commend the dioceses and religious communities who use the Web to facilitate vocations work and look forward to the day when every diocese and community provides this modern means of recruiting vocations," Bishop Loverde said.
"Vocations come from God and often are inspired by personal contact with priests and religious. However, as a support to vocation directors, the Web is an excellent tool. It enables men and women to seek information efficiently, confidentially and anonymously. We need more quality, professional Web sites."
"Jesus was an itinerant preacher in Galilee when he called the Apostles to follow Him two thousand years ago. If He were walking this earth now, He'd still be preaching and reaching out personally to people," Bishop Loverde said. "In fact, I'm convinced that Jesus would have an e-mail address and be on the Web."