Some months' ago I opened an account on Facebook for the Vicariate of Ingwavuma. Our young people are now very much on Facebook through their cellphones and it was a way of keeping in touch with them. It would also be a way of keeping them informed of what we regularly published on our webpage.
A week ago a certain Dennis asked to be my friend on Facebook. We welcome everybody so, he was welcomed too. I did not know who he was. Dennis is a priest of the Servants of Mary (OSM) in America dealing with Justice and Peace issues.
He did not really know he was talking with the bishop... but being the Vicariate of Ingwavuma entrusted to the Servants of Mary and knowing the work being done in this area fighting HIV/Aids, he asked if it would not be possible to gather Servants of Mary from USA to Australia for a conference call on December 1st (Aids' day). He thought it would be a good opportunity to share with the rest of the OSM world and their friends, the work being done here in northern KwaZulu – Natal (South Africa).
Dennis was in charge of issuing a “press release”, contacting people and setting up the group. I would deal with technical issues in South Africa and contacting the people who would be answering the questions.
This was the invitation:
GROUP CHAT WITH OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS KWAZULU-NATAL
on DEC 1st on the Occasion of World AIDS Day, 2010.
The Servite Coalition of Justice (USA), the Servite Delegation in KwaZulu and the Apostolic Vicariate of Ingwavuma would like to invite ALL ENGLISH SPEAKING SERVITES AROUND THE WORLD a well as their friends and colleagues to a GROUP CHAT ON SKYPE on December 1st in commememoration of World AIDS Day to talk about the Servite and Vicariate of Ingwavuma’s efforts to respond to the AIDS Crisis in the KwaZulu region of South Africa:
The second part of it was very important!
ON Dec 1st
SIMPLY LOGON your Skype account 15 minutes before the predetermined time of:
5 PM in South Africa time (GMT+2)
WHICH CORRESPONDS TO ...
7 AM in Los Angeles/Berkeley/Portland (GMT-8)
8 AM in Denver (GMT-7)
9 AM in Chicago / St. Louis (GMT-6)
10 AM in New York (GMT-5)
3 PM in London / Dublin (GMT)
6 PM in Nairobi, Kenya (GMT+3)
8:30 PM in Chennai, India (GMT+5:30)
10 PM in Perth (GMT+8)
11 PM in Manila GMT+9
12 midnight in Melbourne (GMT+10)
NOTE: The time has been selected in such a way so as to allow Servites
and their friends and colleagues
from across the ENTIRE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD
to participate in this group chat.
We will send everyone on our contact list an invitation
to join the group chat at the predetermined to to begin the chat
The chat will be led by Fr. Mel Loftus, OSM, the Friars’ Superior in and a number of other guests. Technical matters will be taken care of by Bp Jose Luis IMC of the Ingwavuma Vicariate on the South African side and Dennis Kriz, OSM on the U.S. / international side
During the chat, the South Africans will periodically send us links to documents, photos, power point presentations and/or short videos to allow them to present to us the AIDS situation as it exists in South Africa as well as their efforts to respond to it. And they will be able to answer our questions.
With Fr Dennis and two or three others we tried the conference call daily in order to solve some technical issues on both sides.
On Wednesday 1st before 5 pm most of us were already online and talking. On our side, together with Fr Mel Loftus OSM, we had Mrs Constance Khumalo (the nurse who coordinates the project) and Deacon Mandla Msweli (chaplain of the project together with Fr Loftus).
The conference lasted one hour and a half. Two or three times we were offline but it did not last more than one or two minutes. Most of it was done talking but some chose to switch off their microphones and just listen to the dialogue or send questions through the written chat.
We had up to 10 people on line and, like in our case, there was more than one next to the computer because some of them chose to meet at a nearby place and use one computer.
This was our first experience and, at the end, there was great joy in all of us and great excitement, wondering what the way forward would be. We knew for sure that we could bring the world together to share and reflect on missionary issues without having to be in the same place at the same time.
I believe this is a possibility that challenges us all. Skype, facebook, webpages, blogs, offer us the possibility of coming together. The possibilites experienced in technology in the last few years (and who knows what will be in the coming ones) can be put at the service of the missionary world. I guess that sometimes we do not really think about it and we just use them at a personal or private level. I feel we got used to an only way of coming together to reflect and share: travelling to one place from every town or every part of the world!
We are in the process of putting into practice at the level of the SACBC (Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference). We have many offices in the SACBC and quite a number of meetings we should be attending in Pretoria.
From 2011 we would like to do some of them via skype so that Bishops will not be asked to leave their dioceses so often. In my case, having been asked to serve in the offices of Aids and Justice and Peace, I found myself travelling every week (three months this year) to attend a meeting. Next year this should be different.
Of course, not everything will become digital. We will still come together sometimes but we hope to balance and keep our eyes and mind opened to the ways new technologies can be put at the service of the missionary world.