WASHINGTON (January 3, 2000) -- Sixth grade students at Mary, Seat of Wisdom School in Park Ridge, Illinois, voted the Websites of the Maryknoll Missionaries and the Sisters of the Most Previous Blood the most attractive and most useful sites, respectively, of religious order sites on the World Wide Web.
They evaluated the sites for the Commission on Religious Life and Ministry. The Commission asked their help as part of activities surrounding the U.S. celebration of the annual World Day for Consecrated Life, to be noted in U.S. dioceses and parishes, February 5-6.
The celebration highlights the presence of religious orders and secular institutes in the Church.
Under the theme "Holy Cyberspace," the Commission surveyed religious orders to note their use of the Web for vocations promotion, ministry and providing public information. It found 17 sites that received frequent "hits" and asked the class to review and comment on them. Maryknoll (www.maryknoll.org) was cited as the "most attractive" site. The Previous Blood Sisters site (www.bright.net/~cppsnews) was cited as "most useful."
In praising the Maryknoll site, students said "www.maryknoll.org had many likeable extras and was interactive."
They urged religious orders overall to make their sites "more interactive" and urged them to "make them more alive to the mission of today."
Mary, Seat of Wisdom School was asked to evaluate the sites because of its strong use of computers. The National Catholic Educational Association recommended the school for the project.
Computer teacher Scott Rosinski said the students enjoyed the project and were ''very critical viewers."
"They were surprised at how good some sites were compared to others, how inviting some were and how stale others were," he said.
In evaluating the sites, they looked at content, creativity and ease of access.
They couldn't get into one site, Rosinski noted, because the filtering software on the school computers prevented access. The filtering system picks up words deemed offensive so the site must have included a word or words which sent up a red flag, he said.
Rosinski has been a teacher for 25 years, for the last four working full-time as the school's computer person, coordinating curriculum and running classes in the computer lab.
Mary, Seat of Wisdom is a suburban parish school in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and enrolles 652 students from pre-school through 8th grade.
The school gives computers a high priority with each classroom having at least one computer with e-mail and Internet access and some classrooms having as many as five computers, Rosinski said. The school recently built a new computer lab with 24 state-of-the-art iMACs. Funding for the computer program comes through an annual track-a-thon with proceeds going to the school's computer equipment, Internet services, and software.
The Commission represents the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious. Msgr. Dennis M. Schnurr, NCCB General Secretary and a Commission member, said he was delighted by the students' efforts.
"For years students have been evaluated by members of religious orders," he said. "This turn of the tables evoked many smiles among the Commission as well as admiration for the students' sharp-eyed insights and their generosity in participating in the project."
No reward was promised the students for their efforts, but the Commission plans to provide students with some funds for a pizza party as a thank you, he said.
The students' list of the overall top ten sites follows in rank order: