Advice for dealing with the effects of divisive social media rhetoric on local parish communities is the subject of a well-received presentation by Diocese of Allentown seminarian Deacon Matthew Kuna.
Deacon Kuna was one of two seminarians of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia chosen to participate last spring in the inaugural cohort of the Church Communications Ecology Program (CCEP) at the University of Notre Dame – McGrath Institute for Church Life.
The event welcomed Church leaders from nine U.S. dioceses, along with more than two dozen graduate students taking an “Evangelization and Media” course at Notre Dame. Deacon Kuna and classmate Deacon Andrew Auletta of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were selected to participate via Zoom.
The CCEP experience culminated with a June 16-19 conference at Notre Dame’s campus titled “Capstone Conversations: Evangelization and Media.”
“There, I presented to the institute’s faculty, Notre Dame graduate students and fellow cohort members on how I would apply the principles of this program in a pastoral context, namely: how a parish priest can guide parishioners in engaging Catholic media,” said Deacon Kuna.
Now the institute has invited Deacon Kuna to return to the campus Sept. 15-17 to make a presentation to its advisory board about the present situation with Catholic media and his proposal.
“To say the least, I am humbled by the opportunity to speak with these advisors and donors to the McGrath Institute,” said Deacon Kuna.
Describing the abstract, he said: “Our Lord’s command for St. Peter to ‘feed my sheep’ extends to the parish priest today: to nourish his people with the Sacraments, the Word of God, and sound teaching. The environment in which parishioners are receiving and practicing the life of faith is increasingly digital, marked with the pitfalls of misinformation and divisiveness that are found in contemporary internet culture.
“With a rise in digital consumption among Catholic circles, pastors play an important role in helping their people discern good sources of Catholic information and be nourished by the opportunities digital evangelization provides.”
CCEP provides a learning community for parish leaders to develop a deeper understanding of the social and psychological effects that digital tools are having on individuals and communities. For parishes to thrive in the digital environment, leaders must be able to promote virtues and practices that lead to true communion.
“My participation in CCEP has been an incredible learning opportunity,” said Deacon Kuna, “both to study the environment in which we are being called to communicate the Gospel – and to learn from fellow participants in the program with varied perspectives and roles in the Church.”
Deacon Kuna was also invited to serve as a panelist for the “Cardinals’ Forum” Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. at St. Charles, an annual gathering that advances the academic formation of seminarians and provides continuing education for the lay faithful about a topic of contemporary concern. This year’s topic is “The Social Media Magisterium: Where Popularity and Reliability Collide.”
Deacon Kuna is the only seminarian on the program, along with two professors and Archbishop of Philadelphia Nelson Perez. For more information, go to https://www.scs.edu/chairs/foley-chair-of-social-communications/the-cardinals-forum/.
Deacon Kuna is the son of Anne and Mark Kuna and a member of St. Thomas More Parish, Allentown. He attended St. Thomas More School and graduated from Bethlehem Catholic High School.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in education, with a concentration on Spanish and English as a second language, at Kutztown University in 2016. He is now serving as a Transitional Deacon at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena Parish, Allentown.
For more information about CCEP, go to https://mcgrath.nd.edu/conferences/summer-institute/the-church-communications-ecology-program/.