WASHINGTON – When was the last time you opened the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Chances are it’s sitting on your shelf collecting dust.
A new global project, Real + True, seeks to “unlock” the catechism and modernize the way church teaching is presented in the digital age.
The Sunday School “is not just a technical book,” said Edmund Mitchell, co-founder of Real + True, “but it is written to truly change our relationship with Christ.”
Launched on September 7, the initiative includes videos, social media content and a podcast organized according to the Four Pillars of the Catechism. Each month a new unit will be released, with 12 units for each pillar, for a total of 48 units.
Aimed at Millennials and Gen Z audiences, the content is intended to complement evangelistic and catechetical efforts that already exist, as well as being a resource for those seeking answers to questions online, said the co-founder Edmundo Reyes.
The material is free and available at realtrue.org in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French.
Reyes said the inspiration for Real + True came six years ago in Portland, Oregon, when he met BibleProject, a nonprofit with a library of resources to help people. to read and understand the Bible.
Although the organization is not Catholic, he was impressed with their work, which he had “never seen done in a church setting.” After learning about the creative process of BibleProject, he came back “with the hope that someday we will do something similar with the church.”
When Reyes returned home, something unexpected happened. He started watching the BibleProject videos on his phone and three of his children joined him.
“They kept saying, ‘Let’s watch the next one, let’s watch the next.’ And at the end my son said to me, ‘Daddy, I feel like I learned more about my faith from these videos than all my years of religious education,’ “said Reyes.
“It moved me in two ways,” Reyes said. “We are a little sad as the man, I let my child come down here, but also a lot of hope that the message that we proclaim, the message of the Gospel, is the truth and it is the beauty and that’s attractive in itself. We just have to be able to communicate this message in a way that is relevant to them, in a way that they can understand it. “
The church is moving towards an “evangelizing catechesis,” Reyes said, citing the example of Pope Francis instituting the ministry of the catechist in May and the Vatican updating the “Directory for catechesis” in June 2020. He sees Real + True like participating in this evangelizing catechesis.
Reyes cited the Catechism, which states: “Times of renewal in the church are also intense times of catechesis. And with the 30th anniversary of the catechism next year, the time seemed right to launch the initiative.
Reyes described Real + True as a “passion project” outside of his work as director of communications in the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Co-founder Emily Mentock explained that the goal of the project to “unlock the catechism for the modern world” means bringing the “text content into more digital media channels to better reach the audience we are looking for” – people who are not against the church but are curious and open to learn more about their faith.
Mentock, 29, said his own return to practicing Catholicism informed his work on Real + True. A crucial milestone in its story was seeing a tweet citing Bishop Robert E. Barron’s sermons podcast.
The tweet piqued her interest, so she started listening to the podcast and eventually “became compelled to go back to mass and from there she became compelled to read all the gospels,” said Mentock, who works as an associate director. of the digital strategy in the archdiocese. from Detroit.
This experience shaped “what I believe in and the ways we can use digital and social media channels as a tool to support this journey back to Christ,” she said.
Each Real + True unit contains three videos – a proclamation video, an explanatory video, and a login video – as well as a podcast for formal and informal catechists.
Mitchell, 32, who has worked in parish ministry for 10 years, said his training in a methodology of catechesis called, “the ecclesial method” by Mgr. Francis Kelly, influenced the approach to develop the structure and scripts of the videos.
The first step is preparation, he says, “attracting the attention of the heart of someone who is not yet ready to hear catechesis”. The proclamation videos are intended to arouse “spiritual curiosity” and prepare the person to have a “burning question on their heart” that connects to the section of the Sunday school covered by the unit.
Then the explainer video goes deeper into the teaching, and the connect video applies the material to everyday life. To create the video topics, Mitchell said he had been influenced by podcasts like “Radiolab” and “This American Life” which are not Christian but explore the phenomenology of the world.
Using the natural world as a vehicle for the questions asked in the videos keeps the content relevant, especially for a global audience, because “Sunday school is universal,” Mitchell said.
Funded by a grant from Our Sunday Visitor, the Real + True initiative is also seeking donations to translate content into more languages and produce videos faster.
“Online evangelism work is meaningful and important, especially in such a connected world, which is what we saw during the pandemic,” Reyes said.
Isolation is one of the challenges the church faces today, and the initiative’s organizers hope that by having “content that leads to Jesus,” young people can help “connect spiritually.” then ideally pursue a “disciple’s journey to true community and fellowship,” he said.