Monday, April 18, 2011

Portsmouth Abbey in the NYT.

Evidently, I scooped the New York Times earlier this month when I posted on Portsmouth Abbey's YouTube channel; in today's edition of the NYT, I spotted an article on the Rhode Island monastery's growing efforts to attract vocations through the Internet:
The Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I., have a problem. They are aging — five are octogenarians and the youngest will be 50 on his next birthday — and their numbers have fallen to 12, from a peak of about 24 in 1969.

So the monks, who for centuries have shied away from any outside distractions, have instead done what many troubled organizations are doing to find new members — they have taken to the Internet with an elaborate ad campaign featuring videos, a blog and even a Gregorian chant ringtone.

"We're down in numbers, we're aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can," said Abbot Caedmon Holmes, who has been in charge of the abbey since 2007. "If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be."

That place is far from the solitary lives that some may think monks live. In fact, in this age of all things social media, the monks have embraced what may be the most popular of form of public self-expression: a Facebook page, where they have uploaded photos and video testimonials.

A new Web site ( answers questions on how to become a monk — one F.A.Q.: "Do I have to give up my car?" (yes) — and print ads announce that "God Is Calling." Some monks will even write blogs.

"If 500 years ago, blogging existed, the monks would have found a way to make use of it," Abbot Holmes said. "Our power is very limited. In the end it's God who is calling people to himself and calling to people to live in union with him. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part."
To read the rest of the article, click here; while you're at it, check out Portsmouth Abbey's new website. Other monasteries and religious communities have been using multipronged web strategies to promote vocations for at least a decade, so Portsmouth Abbey is a bit behind the curve in its embrace of the Internet. That being said, kudos to the monks of Portsmouth Abbey for taking this step and I pray that their efforts are rewarded with new Benedictine vocations. AMDG.


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