Two young adults take their faith and put it into action online

By Daniel P. Smith | Contributor
Sunday, June 3, 2012

Devin Jones and Robert Ashley Collins, founders of Peter and Paul Ministries, often meet at local restaurants to brainstorm ideas for their web site projects. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

Ashley Collins and Devin Jones realize how people connect and communicate in today’s world.

And it’s not the rotary telephone.

Children of the 21st century, the 26-year-old friends have combined faith and modern technology to answer the church’s calls for evangelization. Last year, the duo established the Chicago-based nonprofit Peter and Paul Ministries to help local parishes and Catholic organizations jumpstart their online presence.

“The truth today is that if you’re not on Google, you don’t exist to a lot of people,” Collins said.

Former cohorts at St. Joseph’s College Seminary at Loyola University, Jones and Collins reunited when the latter returned to Chicago after completing his studies at Southern Catholic College in his native Georgia.

Together, the two began pursuing faith formation opportunities, eventually creating Bible study groups at St. Thomas More, 2825 W. 81st St., and St. John de la Salle, 10205 S. King Dr.

At that same time, the techsavvy Collins began crafting a new website for St. Thomas More. “I had the passion and time to do this, so I thought, ‘Why not?’” said Collins. “It was only natural to see how we both could help others grow and develop their own faith.”

As Collins and Jones became increasingly involved in parish life, they noticed a great number of local parishes and Catholic organizations struggling to build a relevant and contemporary online presence. Too often, Jones said, leaders were paying too much for minimal services and failing to capture the Internet’s outreach potential.

“We felt there was an opportunity for Catholics to be more proactive about sharing their faith,” said Jones, a Chicago native who converted to Catholicism in 2006 and will soon apply to the seminary.

For many, the Internet and social media can be a tool to help Catholics and non-Catholics alike discover what the church is and what it teaches.

With that recognition in tow, Collins and Jones created Peter and Paul Ministries as a way to advance the faith in a more structured, efficient way.

As a part of its E-Ministry services, Peter and Paul builds original, low cost and easy-to-manage websites for Chicago area parishes and church-connected institutions. In addition, the nonprofit initiates and instructs on social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, while also holding webinars on topics such as social media outreach and best practices for Bible study programs.

A strong online presence, Jones said, offers parishes and Catholic organizations the opportunity to enliven their message, remind people of events and gather online donations.

“If you’re not online, that could be one parishioner or one soul you’ve lost. Online and social media tools can be a way to sustain the parish or organization,” Jones said, noting that donations to Peter and Paul Ministries help pay for website domain names and hosting fees.

To date, the work of Peter and Paul Ministries has touched St. Ailbe, 9015 S. Harper Ave., as well as the archdiocese’s Pope John Paul II Eucharistic Adoration Association.

Father Robert Behnke, a Peter and Paul Ministries board member since late 2011, commends Collins and Jones for sharing their talents with parishes and church organizations.

“They are enthused about the church and its message and believe in spreading the faith,” Behnke said, noting that Peter and Paul Ministries perfectly represents Pope Benedict’s calls for Catholics to utilize the media as a tool for sharing the Gospel.

Indeed, Collins and Jones are motivated to share their faith and build community.

Regardless of the project, Collins and Jones remain steadfast in continually placing the church’s best interest at the forefront of their endeavors.

“We’re working to make sure that we’re remaining faithful to the church and that everything we do is guided by faith and devotion,” Jones said.