SAN DIEGO — Some 99 percent of texts are opened – 90 percent of them within three minutes of being received. More than half of consumers prefer to be contacted by their favorite brands by email.
There’s no question that people prefer these communication channels today.
Now, parishes of the San Diego Diocese will have the opportunity to use them to connect directly with their members.
Bishop Robert W. McElroy announced that the diocese had entered into an agreement with a leading company to provide this service.
Parishioners at participating parishes will be able to receive a wide range of information via text and email in English and Spanish. And they will be able to ask questions and provide instant feedback to the parishes in response.
“These are enormously difficult days in which we have all been challenged to refashion our pathways of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and remaining close to our people,” the bishop said in a letter to the diocese’s priests announcing the agreement. “These are also days in which our parishes and schools have shown great creativity in finding new ways to bring the life of the Church to their communities.”
The bishop said that the platform will offer parishes the ability:
* To communicate with parishioners instantly via unlimited text messaging and email;
* To develop and update a database with parishioners’ basic information, as well key information, such as marital status and date they received the sacraments;
* To create attractive, relevant bulletins and newsletters; To share links, videos and other multimedia resources;
* To communicate directly with distinct ministries within the parish;
* To provide electronic communication compliant with safe environment policies.
Parishioners will be able to manage that electronic interaction like they do with the other organizations in their life. They will have a say as to how they want to receive information (text, email or both), from whom (the pastor, certain parish or diocesan ministries, the bishop, among others), and how often. And they can opt out if they wish.
The communication platform will be provided by Flocknote, based in Texas, that combines texting and email service to about 6,000 parishes nationwide. The San Diego Diocese becomes the second one in California to work with the company, after the San Francisco Archdiocese.
One-third of the parishes at the San Diego Diocese already use their service. Now, all parishes will have the opportunity to do so.
Chancellor María Olivia “Marioly” Galván is leading this initiative. She explained that the diocese was initially looking for a way to communicate with young adult Catholics, a priority identified at the synod held late last year focused on this population.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic exploded, swiftly altering every aspect of Church life.
“We began looking at ways that would allow us to communicate broadly and effectively across the entire diocese; employing a strategy that would not only help us with young adult outreach but also the wider community,” she said.
“Flocknote can be used to reach our mass Catholic population instantly,” she said. “Especially in these days, where most people own a mobile device, access to communication is an attainable goal.”
Pastors and parish ministry leaders will be able to share important updates and information pertaining to parish activities, schedule of livestreamed Masses, faith-formation classes, webinars or other opportunities through text messages and emails, she explained.
“This is a vehicle that can be used to deliver the Gospel message.”
This form of communication is meant to complement existing diocesan media, such as the parish bulletin, the newspaper The Southern Cross, and social media pages.
The platform will be adopted in phases. Initial trainings began May 20 and will continue through June 18 for each parish’s “Flocknote champion,” the staff member that will manage the platform, and its ministry leaders.
Each parish will begin to develop a database of their members, and, if they choose to, migrate their existing one onto the platform.
Maintaining these databases securely is a priority, said Matthew Sewell, the manager at Flocknote who will lead the service to the diocese.
The company will never share or sell the information it has collected from the parishes, he added.
He said that any healthy organization needs to reach its people directly.
“We all get messages from our bank, clothing store or favorite restaurant,” he said. “Why should the Church be the exception?”