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Liturgical Institute uses media to get the word out

By Michelle Martin
July 25, 2016

“The Mass is very long and tiresome unless one loves God.”

That quote, from G.K. Chesterton, is short, pithy and a little bit challenging. In other words, perfect for social media, even though it was first published in 1909.

Jesse Weiler thought so, and posted the quote with a picture of Chesterton on the Facebook page of the Liturgical Institute, where he is assistant director for media and communications. The institute, which offers graduate programs in liturgy and hosts conferences and lectures, is part of the University of St. Mary of the Lake.

That post, made about three weeks after Weiler came on board at the institute, drew 50,000 views. Not bad for Facebook page that has just over 2,700 likes.

But the institute, which last year celebrated its 15th anniversary, has made it its mission to reach out and spread the word about the work it does.

“It was always our objective to reach as many people as we could,” said Denis McNamara, associate director and associate professor at the institute. “Not everybody can come to Mundelein when we have a conference or take a class. Reaching out on social media is an extension of our work and a way to bring the message of the Gospel all around the world.”

Indeed, a student from India said he recognized McNamara from a talk he gave that the institute posted on its YouTube channel. The channel hosts videos from presentations and conferences, as well as original content created specifically for online distribution.

The most popular so far has been a 31-part series of videos with Father Douglas Martis, former director of the institute, on “The Elements of the Catholic Mass.” That series has had more than 80,000 views.

“You see tens of thousands of views for the series,” McNamara said. “That’s empirical evidence that there’s a desire for this content.”

Weiler, who was more of a social media expert than a liturgical expert when he was hired, agreed.

To fill that need, he has produced not only YouTube videos but also podcasts of talks given at the institute. He recently started a new series of podcasts with McNamara and lecturer Christopher Carstens called “The Liturgy Guys” in which they discuss aspects of the Catholic liturgy for a non-academic audience. It’s available on iTunes and Google Play.

“I represent the listener in those talks,” Weiler said, “so I can ask what they mean when they get too intellectual.”

The Liturgical Institute was able to hire Weiler with a generous donation, and his work has shown results.

The institute has plenty going for it, he said.

“We have access to unique information here,” he said. “We teach something that’s really a niche, and we have a lot of really strong content.”

To get that out as broadly as possible, he said, he tries to find ways to connect with all parts of the audience: people, like him, who listen to podcasts when they commute; people who watch videos on their computers; people who read text posts on the train or at lunch.

“I don’t care if you don’t come to school here,” he said. “But I want you to know that we are here, and we have all this quality content.”

Other agencies and organizations within the church can also take advantage of social media, but he recommends that they get someone who is dedicated to doing it.

“If they say they can’t afford it, then maybe partner with another agency, or have three go together to hire someone,” he said.

Having someone dedicated has made all the difference, McNamara said. When the institute tried to add social media responsibilities to other people’s existing jobs, not much got done, he said.

“It always fell to the bottom of the list of things to do,” he said.

In the 11 months since Weiler’s position was created, the number of Facebook likes has more than doubled and the institute has created an abundance of new content across various platforms.

Topics:

  • liturgy
  • university of st. mary of the lake
  • evangelization
  • social media

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