Synod helps archdiocese spin a ‘web’

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

The Archdiocese of New Orleans fulfilled one more synod goal Thanksgiving week with the launch of its newly designed website – nolacatholic.org – joining 85 other Catholic parish, school and archdiocesan ministry websites on a new eCatholic web platform.

The launch of the new websites, powered by eCatholic, makes achieving the archdiocese’s mission of “Encountering Jesus, Witnessing With Joy” much easier by providing local church parishes and archdiocesan ministries with beautiful and user-friendly websites and new ways to reach people. That was the intent last year when eCatholic was procured, said Sarah McDonald, archdiocesan communications director.

“If Jesus lived today, he would most certainly use technology to share the Gospel,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said. “We are called to use all means available to us as he did to evangelize and bring Christ to all who seek him. As an archdiocese, we have been working toward our synod theme of ‘Encountering Jesus, Witnessing With Joy.” Our hope is that with this new site we may invite more people into that profound encounter with Jesus and they may go forth to witness his love with joy.”

Simplicity is the beauty of eCatholic websites. All sites are mobile-friendly, McDonald said, meaning users searching for archdiocesan and worldwide Catholic news can access it using any device (computer, phone, iPad, etc.). And, parish or ministry employees who design, manage and update their websites can make changes as effortlessly as dragging and dropping pictures and content in place. The changes also sync with the Archdiocese of New Orleans website.

New look, more reach

The importance of a strong social media presence was clear to the archdiocese during the synod meetings. Over the past nine months the archdiocese worked closely with eCatholic to achieve the look and use of the new site, McDonald said.

“The whole initiative came out of a synod priority to enable all parishes to have functional websites,” McDonald said. “The archdiocese researched models and came across eCatholic. It came highly recommended. … eCatholic was easy to work with and cost-effective.”

A quick glance at the nolacatholic.org site shows its clean look with a scrolling banner of five news stories and content modules that, when clicked, give users access to more information about “Our Faith,” “Parishes,” “Schools,” “Tricentennial,” “Ministries” and the “Calendar.”

Finding a parish or Mass time is as easy as typing in a city or zip code.

The archdiocese wanted to make the same technology accessible to parishes, so it reallocated resources to give parishes this new social media web option. The archdiocese also committed to paying for the annual licensing fees, maintenance and technical support for parishes to stay current. If paid by the parish, the annual fee would be approximately $600, McDonald said. The parish’s commitment to the initiative is to maintain its content.

Parishes are elated with the new platform. Father Robert Cooper, pastor of St. Benilde Parish in Metairie, said eCatholic “had the tools and resources we needed to create an innovative web design … without requiring extensive expertise.”

“Three years later, we continue to update content and maintain the site through an easy-to-use interface,” he said, “and we have expanded our web presence, communication abilities and stewardship program through their constantly evolving features.”

eCatholic also provides helpful tips to website administrators, offers webinars and consistently makes updates year-round to improve its platform for clients, McDonald said. And eCatholic has dedicated a support team to assist web administrators in parishes and ministries.

The eCatholic platform makes it easier for parishes to re-engage parishioners over and over with constant updates generated either by that parish or with feeds from the archdiocese.

“That helps the parish,” she said. “If you don’t have the staff or resources to create content in your parish, it will be updated for you, giving parishioners a reason to go to your site.”

McDonald said the ultimate goal of the new site is to get the information to those seeking it – whether it’s a parishioner or a new person in town looking for information on a parish or the archdiocese. It gives another way to disseminate information other than a person driving by a parish and reading a sign.

“This enables us to spread information farther and in different ways so people get it from different outlets,” she said.

The archdiocese also is working to make the new website ADA-capable, so for example, if a visually impaired person has special technology, that person can read the site.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity to work with eCatholic for what it is offering our parishes, schools and ministries.” McDonald said.

Parishes, schools and ministries that are interested in launching a site through the eCatholic initiative can go to http://nola.ecatholic.com to get more information.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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