March 27, 2012 in News
Los Angeles—-A growing number of Catholics are finding inspiration and reflection this Lenten season through an unlikely source: the Internet and social media.
The producers of “40,” a post-apocalyptic Web-based drama that debuted on Ash Wednesday, report they have seen a steady growth in viewers across its Web, YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook platforms.
“’40′ has literally gone from zero to almost 20,000 viewers each week during Lent and the audience is growing,” said Fr. Eddie Siebert, S.J., President of Loyola Productions, who along with the Midwest Jesuits and Loyola Press have produced the groundbreaking program. “People are getting used to the idea that certain technologies, often thought of as a work tool or purely a social outlet, are convenient and useful channels for enhancing their faith as well.”
“40” offers viewers a unique Lenten experience through weekly episodes aired on 40theseries.com, YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook. Each of the 14 episodes acts as a Lenten allegory, accompanied by meditative reflections centered on the scriptural references. Updates are communicated through Twitter.
Religious education programs across the country have adopted “40” as part of the their Lenten curriculum. St. Cornelius Catholic School in Chicago has integrated “40” into its 7th grade confirmation curriculum. Students watch “40” in class and then discuss each program’s message and reflection.
“At first students didn’t know what to expect,” said Mary Barth, the school’s religious education coordinator. “Now, they talk about the program and look forward to the next episode.” Barth noted most students use technology at home and in school. Using Web and social media based religious education programs like “40” helps to show students how to integrate what they learn in Confirmation class into every day life. “Books and lectures are fine, but a Web- and social media-based program like ’40′ delivers content and a message to students through communications channels they use every day and can relate to.”
High school juniors taking Victor Cancino, SJ’s inter-religious dialogue class at Verbum Dei High School in south central Los Angeles are using “40” to learn more about Catholicism’s rituals. “Students are intrigued by ’40′ because its an allegory, a metaphor for life and faith,” Mr. Cancino said. “They relate better to the information by watching the programs in class.” Cancino said after watching “40” each week, students write about the week’s episode in their journals as a way to deepen their faith, understand their lives and learn more about the Catholic Church.
“40’s” producers expect to continue to grow the audience for the unique series. “Combining a cutting-edge medium with mixed media is exciting,” said Siebert, ’40’s’ executive producer. “’40′ successfully demonstrates the best use of the Internet and social media—to enhance our faith during Lent and throughout the year.”