Although the Internet is not the first place he turns to learn more about Catholicism, Deacon Claude Lester knows he’s increasingly in the minority on that count.
"I’m in my 60s, and I don’t first think of going to the Internet to get the answer to a question, but my children and grandchildren do," said Deacon Lester, who is director of faith formation at St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and St. Bridget/St. Joseph Parish in East Bloomfield.
And now, a new website from the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Catechesis is aiming to answer a question central to Catholic faith: Who is Jesus?
In doing so, the diocese hopes to connect people asking about Jesus and the Catholic faith with local parish staff who can help them continue on their spiritual journeys.
The site, called The Spiritual Pilgrim: A Catholic Invitation to Faith, is located at http://spiritualpilgrim.dor.org. The site is aimed at religious seekers who may not come from a Christian background, and who may be curious about Jesus.
"People can come on a journey to find meaning in their life and to find hope in times of distress and tribulation," said Mary Dundas, diocesan director of evangelization and sacramental catechesis. "For us that’s a relationship with Jesus."
The site features videos from Bishop Matthew H. Clark talking about encountering Jesus in the Gospels, in the community, and in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. There also are videos of other diocesan personnel speaking about how Catholics read the Bible and how Catholics dialogue with people of other faiths.
The site also has a spot that is devoted to answering questions people have about the Catholic faith.
"We’ll do our best to answer them in a timely fashion," Dundas said.
She noted that people may find its useful to direct friends and family to the site if they have questions about the Catholic faith. It also may make it easy for people to help connect their friends and family with parish staff.
"We have so many treasures to offer, but it begins with a relationship," Dundas said.
Deacon Lester is one of the people listed on the website as being a person to contact for more information on the faith.
"I am hopeful that this will be a tool that people will feel comfortable using, and that we will be able to answer some questions that people have and clear up some misconceptions," he said.
He said he hopes that the website is a way for people to become informed and also to feel welcomed. Throughout his career in parish ministry, Deacon Lester said many people have come forward with basic questions about the faith, and these questions were often coupled with a desire for the sacraments.
"Whether they want to get baptized or get married in the church, these are all expressions of the desire to be faithful people, yet they may not know how to navigate the system," he said.
Like Deacon Lester, Lena Shipley also is listed on the site as a contact person if people are interested in learning more. Shipley said she’s excited by the prospect of such a connection.
"This (website) is bigger than I even imagined," said Shipley, pastoral associate of St. Mary Parish in Waterloo and St. Patrick Parish in Seneca Falls. "This is the World Wide Web. We may be getting calls from far beyond our diocese. What a way for God to use us in presenting the Gospel. We may be getting calls from the far ends of the Earth, and we would be the voice that would direct them to the Gospel and the church."
She said the site helps to meet a need.
"The work of evangelization is absolutely critical in our age, especially in this age when we can be so trapped in materialism and secularism," Shipley said. "I don’t think there is ever a time that it is more needed. It is exciting to me how God uses these tools and uses modern technology to spread the word of God around the world."