3 Things about Internet Marketing and Vocations

Jason, a reader commented regarding the vocation survey from CARA:

You are definitely right about the personal invitation to consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But careful not to discount the power of the internet media in reaching young men, especially the post-Gen X’ers (I’m not even sure what they’re called anymore.)

I knew little about my religious community when I began discerning, and I never received a personal invitation from a priest. Much of my initial research on vocations was done through the internet, and I’m not alone. Dioceses and religious orders have only scratched the surface of using the internet as an outreach resource.

An excellent point except there are a few caveats:

1) Initial Inspiration Sources: Young men and women who are searching for vocations have already been inspired to do so. So the initial spark in doesn’t necessarily come to them because they stumbled upon a random internet site and then said “Gee, maybe I’ll be a priest (or a sister).” Although I wouldn’t discount that that COULD happen to at least a small number of people. I would think that seeing something like the Fishers of Men video or reading a story about a person’s vocation would have more to do with inspiring them in a virtual way than a random ad or even a basic informational website for a community or a diocese would.

Most people have been inspired by a priest, sister or deacon who they’ve had an experience with in ministry and they also had the seeds planted that they might be good at what they do either by them, by a friend who notices those gifts, or by their own intuition after witnessing other clergy or religious in action. But here’s the huge thing to Jason’s point…wait for it…

2) Vocation Candidates search for dioceses and communities anoymously:

A survey done by the Emerging Models Project found that few people approached a vocations director to ask about possibly going into ministry. Most talked to a friend or another trusted source. Many also said they did a private search with regards to religious communities.

Once people get interested in religious vocations they decide to start searching for vocational material on their own, that search is primarily done anonymously on the internet today. So just having your diocesan information or your religious community’s information online is paramount.

If nothing else, this makes a stronger case for what we call niche marketing. Better stated it means targeting people who may have already been inspired by a priest or a campus minister. In essence, you don’t really have to convince people to consider vocations with an online ad–they already ARE interested. What you need to do is twofold: 1) Make it easy to find your ad in places that they are sure to visit on that search and maybe even do some search engine optimization to make sure that you come up when they put in obvious keywords.

2) Make yourself look interesting online: You are really trying to convince them that your diocese or religious community is interesting enough to make them want to join you. You are not really getting them over the hump of considering priesthood or religious life. If they were, they wouldn’t be looking at your ad, most likely.

Simply put, to not be online, means that you don’t exist. So you must have some kind of landing place for them to find out information on your community. These sites should have loads of information. Everything from how long it takes to be ordained, to what kind of education requirements and age are needed, and most importantly, to have stories of someone’s journey on a you tube video or maybe even a seminarian’s blog. Pictures are most important–what kind of message do you want to send? If you’re a more contemplative community how do you best express that visually and in text (and you need both)? If you’re into evangelization, how do you best express that?

This adds to the inspiration that’s already present and that sparked the search to begin with.

3) Niche Marketing:

Take a hard look at where most of your present vocations have come from. As an example, many people will reply “That’s easy–they dome from various college campuses who know our community.” OK, that might be true–but then go beyond that. What are those people studying on those campuses? If it’s theology than there’s probably something happening with that group long before they get to college. My guess is that it’s not theology though. My guess is that it might be something like social work or psychology or even education or something that maybe particularly connects with your community’s charism. A Jesuit I knew said that the reason he became a Jesuit was so he could be a priest AND have “a job”–as opposed to just working in a parish as a diocesan priest might. He wanted more and his experience of studying counseling lead him to the Jesuits, campus ministry and spiritual direction work.

How do you express who you are to people who are already engaged in the charisms that your community holds? More importantly, are you presently going after THOSE people. Are you engaging with folks as an example in the communications department if your community has a charism for evangelization on a college campus that you’re familar with? If you work with the poor in the third world are you engaged with the local global outreach programs or even with service organizations that already send people abroad–even if it’s just to say hi and offer them some support. As an example, maybe offering them free space in a church hall to meet with possible recruits. They’re looking for the same people you are and in some ways they might help you in the long term simply because folks will remember meeting at your church and maybe meeting you.

Hey Jason, does this make sense?

How about you vocations directors? Anything to add?

Seminarians–how did your vocations director get you on the hook?

One final point: Most of our advertisers on BustedHalo.com are vocations ads and they note that they get a huge response. Check them out on the right sidebar and if you want to advertise yourself–here’s a link for you to contact us.

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Columbine:10 Years later

In Googling God (my book) I attest that Columbine is a seminal moment in the life of the Millennial Generation, that their world has been marked by many tragedies all mounting on one another leading them to see the world as precarious. Religiously speaking, they look for security within religion’s ranks, especially because when you couple this precariousness with the rise in technology you get a world where many different sources compete for the attention of the younger generation and therefore trust also becomes a major issue.

“Who or what can I trust?” is a major question for this generation. Contrasting that with Generation X’s wonder of who will be there for them at all and we find a bunch of cynical people who wonder if religion seems to make any sense altogether. The younger millennials seem less willing to search for these truths, but also adhere strongly to something that makes sense to them that they are able to find quickly. Long term however, some initial commitments also make lack staying power. People who follow Catholicism strongly at this juncture are likely to eschew it for something that may fit their lifestyle better down the road when that life changes into family or marriage responsibilities or when deeper questions of faith go unanswered by their religious mentors or even their tradition as a whole. There seems to be little room for ambiguity amongst the young.

For the older Generation Xers, faith is more relational. How do I see myself and others in faith traditions? Where is our belief helping us form community, virtual or otherwise. As a member of Gen X I can say, we crave community so much that we settle for new ways of trying to produce its effects (See, facebook, social networks). We long for trusted sources too, but are more willing to listen to all-comers and then discern for ourselves what is is that God is trying to tell us within it all?

Columbine and 9-11 and the myriad of tragedies that followed revealed even more:

Millennials ran to churches and intellectual approaches to see where God exist. What have certain structures said about God because they’ve taken the time to look at it–time Millennials don’t have time for. More critically, Gen Xers don’t trust the institution but instead look for what the tradition itself forms–what cohorts come together to try to make sense of things and to explore questions of deeper meaning as well as provide support for one another in it all.

But as the world grows more precarious, I pray that we remember the lessons of Columbine. That the pressure that students are under is often immense and we need to continue to be active in their lives asking questions and staying informed about who they are developing into. They want your help, they need it and moreover they seek it.

Fr. Reese on Pope Benedict

Great thoughts from Fr. Tom Reese today in the Washington Post:

In explaining the lifting of the excommunication, I have compared it to a “ceasefire.” A ceasefire is not a peace treaty, even less an alliance. It allows for negotiations, it is not the end of negotiations. Whether these negotiations will succeed, is uncertain.

While admitting that the staffing and communication of the decision was flawed, the pope defends the decision itself. “Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church?” “Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?” “Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who ‘has something against you’ (cf. Mt 5:23ff.) and to seek reconciliation?”

I agree with the pope’s analysis of the Williamson crisis. The decision making process was flawed and the roll out of the decision was a disaster. As I said earlier, lifting the excommunication was a prudential decision which the pope had every right to make and it did not mean an endorsement of the views of Williamson or of the Society of St. Pius X.

The one criticism that the pope does not answer in his letter is from those who feel he reaches out to dissenters on the right but not on the left. Could we take the same conciliatory language and apply it to those who reject the church’s teaching on birth control, married clergy and women priests? Can there be another commission whose responsibility is to reach out and negotiate with these factions in the church? “Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity?”

I think those are all good points. The larger question would be do those on the left actually seek reconciliation? Perhaps they just throw their hands up in disbelief. It seems that at least some people in the Society of Pius X would be open to working this out.

Read the rest here.

Photo credit to the AP from today’s trip to Cameroon.

Lend the Orphans of Mustard Seed Communities a Hand Today

Some years ago I had the great joy of attending a mission trip to Nicaragua with Mustard Seed Communities–a charity that takes care of abandoned and disabled children in thrid world countries. It is an experience that moved me greatly and made me not only much more sensitive to the needs of the poor but also the needs of poor children.

Last night, Martha’s House in Kingston Jamaica, home to thirty children with HIV/AIDS, burned to the ground.

Friends of mine went to this community in Jamaica as well and were very moved by the children there. One even said that if he could only have one memory in his old age he hoped it would be the memory of the children saying the rosary in the morning “as best they could.” Kids with cerebral palsy, HIV, AIDS, and mental handicaps as well all make an effort to say the rosary each and every morning for their needs and for the needs of the world. Beautiful.

Thankfully, all of the children and caregivers were able to escape from the burning building. This was in large part due to the help of many people from the local community who came to their assistance.

These children, many of whom are under five years old, are now left very confused and are filled with much stress. Imagine not having very much to begin with and now losing your home and all your belongings! The little girl who loses a teddy bear that gives her security or a little boy who suffers from HIV who now can’t even play ball in the day–the one thing that gives him pleasure.

While the children are safe at another one of Mustard Seed’s homes area, they will soon need permanent housing.

Although they have not yet received a full report from the Fire Marshall, the fire is believed to have been caused by a short from the electrical pole outside of the home.


As is often true in disasters such as these, our immediate need is for funds and goods to replace what the children have lost. To donate funds online go HERE to make a donation.

You may also send funds directly to MSC USA development office at: 29 Janes Avenue, Medfield, MA 02052 or contact Laura Doherty, Executive Director, at 508-242-9622.

Guys and Dolls

So I took my wife to see Guys and Dolls for her birthday because she’sa big fan of Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls fame. She plays Miss Adelaide in this Broadway Production alongside the extremely talented Oliver Platt who plays Nathan Detroit. The play centers around the 14 year engagement of Nathan and Adelaide and the never do well attitude that Nathan who organizes floating craps game has.

What a fantastic production! Craig Bierko plays Sky Masterson and also does an outstanding job with Kate Jennings Grant who plays Sarah, the Salvation Army missioner who falls in love with the gambling Sky. Grant was the most poised on the broadway stage, I think in this production and has a lovely voice.

Stealing the show is the actor, Tituss Burgess who plays Nicely-Nicely Johnson who’s big number is towards the end of the play with “Sit Down You”re Rockin’ the Boat.” He added a gospel twinge to the song that had the entire crowd feverishly applauding by the end. Mary Testa also does a hysterical job as the General.

I don’t usually get starstruck–all those years in radio got me over the novelty of meeting actors. But since it was my wife’s birthday, we stood outside the stage door waiting for Graham’s autograph. Surprisingly, Platt showed up first and was really very approachable. He signed our playbill with his own Sharpie and I took the opportunity to ask him how hard was it to play George Steinbrenner in “The Bronx is Burning.”

Platt did a double take and looked right at me and smiled and said: “Man that was hard. Really hard. I had to forget that I was a Red Sox fan.” If you haven’t seen this series that was out not that long ago–it well worth purchasing. It chronicles the 1977 baseball season with the Yankees and Platt is excellent as Steinbrenner. I’m a huge fan and even more of one now that he’s such a nice guy.

Kate Jennings Grant also showed up and was extremely gracious. Signing autographs and taking pictures for everyone. She told a great story of how this was the first play she ever did in high school and played Sarah then too! Over 20 years later she stands on the Broadway stage doing it all again. Her high school teacher showed up recently to watch her in the role and the two had a good cry about the memories.

Finally, Lauren Graham showed up wearing a NY Giants ski cap and was signing autographs as well including a t-shirt that said “Team Lauren” for a young girl. Hurried, though she was, I don’t think she missed a fan’s request, even suggesting that the fans take pictures paparazzi-style because she knew her “people” were going to whisk her away.

All in all a great night. I took some pics with my camera phone so they’re not great but the one of Platt is above and here’s one of Graham.

How I Met My Wife

OK it’s no secret that I think I married the most wonderful woman, but today I need to especially tell y’all about her. It’s her birthday today and she has indeed been the light of my life in so many ways. She loves talking about how we met, so I thought I’d share that story with you, but more importantly, tell you how wonderful this woman has been to my life.

I met my wife because a college friend was honest enough with me to let me know that she didn’t approve of the woman that I was dating and that I should meet her friend Marion.

I didn’t listen.

Instead, the relationship I was in sapped much of my energy and we ended up breaking up sometime down the road. Not to mention, my friend was persistent. She’d bring Marion to young adult events including one that I particularly remember when she was extremely dressed up. She let me know that she was interested in helping organize an event for young adults to serve the needs of children. So I decided to call her later in the week and take her up on that offer.

The phone call went something like this:

Me: “Hi Marion, It’s Mike Hayes. Hey I wanted to see if we could have lunch sometime and talk about organizing that event for kids?”

Marion: “Well…I’m a teacher and I eat with the children.”

Me: (To myself) Great! She thinks I’m an idiot for not realizing that. (To Marion) Oh…well OK, well I guess I’ll see you around maybe I’ll see you at the church.

I turned to my co-worker Heather at that point and said:

“This woman wants nothing to do with me.”

Fast forward like 3-4 months later and it’s Holy Week. And lo and behold, Marion shows up in my parish for Holy Thursday mass. I was seated far from her but I kept my eye on her. I decided to catch up with her after mass, but I forget that mass ends with a solemn procession around the church and everyone leaves in darkness and in silence.

In essence, I don’t know if I lost her in the crowd or in the dark.

So glumly I head to the local diner to grab a burger before the Good Friday fast and there she was with my friend and another friend who grabbed me and plunked me down in the chair next to Marion within seconds.

The rest of the night was simply magical. It was like we were the only two people in the diner, never mind at that table.

As we left I found out she lived in Queens where I was also living (and it’s the borough where we still reside). I asked what subway she takes home.

“Oh I take the R”

“ME TOO!” I replied.

I lied. I was on the #7 line. But a trip on the R train would only result in bascially a longer walk to my house and a chance to continue talking.

In the subway…we talked and waited…and waited…and waited for an R train that never came.

We didn’t notice.

Finally I asked Marion if she had seen an R train on either platform? We decided that we’d take the N train into Queens and that I could transfer to the #7 train and she could also take the #7 to another local train and get home that way.

How smooth was I? Not very.

A windy night at Queensboro Plaza ensued. On the platform we stood close to each other in the freezing cold.

“Block the wind!” Marion said to me. So I stood close to her shielding her from the bracing cold. I didn’t hold her. We didn’t kiss. It was just my lanky frame blocking the prevailing winds. Marion still wonders how I didn’t kiss her right there. She told me once:

“You played it so cool. I wanted to kiss you so badly.”

I was probably scared to death.

I looked at her and said as we entered the arriving train:
“Y’know you could just come to my place and call a cab if you want!”

Marion tells me years later her reaction was “Yeah right, like I’m going to go to your apartment after just meeting you! I don’t think so.”

She declined my offer (which didn’t really have any ulterior motives) so instead I made her promise to call me when she got home. So I’d know she got home safely.

I began to fret about asking her out but just before I exited the train I asked her to dinner and a quick

She did.

We spent the rest of that Holy Week together. I preached a reflection on Good Friday and our first “date” followed: A Passover Sedar at a friend’s apartment that he held for both his Christian and Jewish friends–sans meat for the Catholics. At one point after dinner, the entire party was on one end of the room and Marion and I were on the other. Talking and talking and talking. I couldn’t get enough of her talking about how cute her niece Veronica was (she is!) and how her fiesty Grandmother won a tomato sauce contest in Brooklyn. We got a ride back to Queens but parted ways separately…no kiss, no hugs.

Easter brought us the Vigil on Holy Saturday and I brought the gift of a Chocolate Easter bunny. Marion interpreted the mass in sign language and I served as a lector. I wanted to kiss her at the sign of peace but somehow THAT didn’t strike me as appropriate. We again parted ways separately, but made a date for the following Tuesday: a wonderful one act play called Fully Committed which we saw with some friends. We loved it.

That magical first kiss came when I walked her to her apartment building. She tells me now that her knees got weak that night. And if I’m honest I’ll admit that mine still do.

We’ve been married for nearly 7 years but that fateful night happened almost 9 years ago. We’ve seen each other through a lot. Sickness and health. New life and death. The lack of children but the loyalty of a good dog. Successes at work and challenges in relationships with others and with each other.

It has not been easy. Not by a longshot.

But it indeed has been wonderful. Wonderful enough that I wouldn’t want to change a thing, because I know that I have a woman for a wife who is my lifelong love. More importantly, I know I have a wife who understands what it means to love–that loving is hard. It means loving one another when one of us is grumpy (uaually me and usually in the morning!), or when the toliet won’t flush and the laundry is piling up. Love doesn’t quit when parents need surgery or when people can be unreasonable. When the chips are down, love doesn’t cash in and quit but instead doubles down and risks it all.

My wife knows that kind of love. I’ve seen it each and every day of our marriage and I hope I’ve at least been able to offer some of that love back to her. She’s much better at it than I am, I think, but somehow I’m still amusing enough for her to keep me around–grumpy mornings and all.

It is clearly the kind of love that God has for us as well–a love that doesn’t place conditions on it. No matter what happens, I know Marion will always love me and that she always has my back.

And today, I pray that she knows how loved she is by her husband.

Happy Birthday, My Dearest Marion. And many, many more.

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40 day giveaway: Checking in

There’s apparently never a homeless person when you need one! I wonder who the recipient of the Lime green I luv NY shirt will be?

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