Rome, Italy. On October 19, 2023, Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, CMF, General Superior of the Claretian Missionaries, commissioned the Cybermissionaries to spread the Gospel in the cyber world during an unprecedented online sending-off celebration. The date marked the end of the fundamental part of the Sowing in the Cyberworld formation course, which ran from June 13, 2023, to October 19, 2023.
In coherence with the aspirations and dreams formulated by the XXVI General Chapter of the Claretian Missionaries in its exhortation, Querida Congregación no. 72c, iClaret organized a formation program to consolidate the service of the cybermissionaries – promoted by the General Government -, seeking to train them to make effective use of the means of communication as a place of encounter and formation.
The program was entitled ‘Sowing in the Cyberworld‘ and was inspired by the parable of the sower in the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The proposal was divided into three phases: Tilling the Soil, Sowing the Seed, Pruning and Maintenance. Its purpose is to provide a biblically and scientifically rooted formation program that will provide a common fund of knowledge, skills, and communicative abilities to everyone involved in this field in the Congregation.
Sowing in the Cyberworld was designed to facilitate the consolidation of the Claretian Cybermissionaries, who are called, formed, and sent to evangelize in the digital continent (QC 72c). The aim is to help them proclaim the Word in a shared mission in a timely, urgent, and effective manner and to help them organize, reorganize, equip, form, and align each Major Organism’s communication teams and the various Conferences.
The program also aimed to help Provinces and Delegations prepare communication and digital evangelization plans that promote and coordinate quality evangelization services with responsibility and prudence. The action was foreseen in the plans with which the General Prefecture of the Bible and Communication intends to promote the fifth dimension of the Dream discerned by the General Chapter for the Congregation.
The program was open to all the areas of the Congregation, both to the Claretian Missionaries and to the laity involved in the pastoral care of social networks and institutional communication. Of the 31 Major Organisms, 24 actively participated in the course. Four did not send representatives, and three could not complete the course. Two Claretian Sisters (RMI) from Nigeria, related to the Claretians in the area, also participated in the course. 145 people have remained enrolled during these months, registering an average attendance of 70 to 80 people during the online formative meetings organized in English and Spanish. Although not everyone could follow the classes simultaneously, many have been accessing them later on a provided platform. The lessons have been given by different types of speakers, Claretians and non-Claretians, and by members of the iClaret team.
During the program, the participants approached the fundamentals of communication from the biblical, ecclesiological, sociological, and charismatic dimensions. One session was dedicated to getting to know the different publishing houses of the Congregation and the pastoral presences in other areas, such as television and radio. There was also an opportunity to listen to young people and representatives of the Claretian Family and to learn about the evolution of the media apostolate in the Congregation. On September 21, the course participants met with the Major Superiors and Secretaries of the entire Congregation to discuss their roles and responsibilities and present them to the Congregation.
Twenty-nine sessions were delivered in the program, which amounted to 44.5 hours of online lessons. The educational sessions ended on October 17, 2023, while the technical sessions will begin on October 31. Only those interested in learning various skills in podcasting, video, live streaming, digital arts, artificial intelligence, web design, and related fields are required to participate in the second part of the program. Towards the end of the year, people selected from among those who attended the course will form a commission to draft a Communication and Mission Plan and Orientations for Claretian communicators and cyber missionaries.
The send-off celebration took place at 2:00 p.m. Rome time on October 19, 2023. It was attended by 72 participants worldwide, including all the CIP students from Nigeria and several groups that had gathered to live the moment together. The session began with reciting the Apostolic Prayer of St. Anthony Mary Claret, followed by a message from the Superior General. Fr. Henry Omonisaye, CMF, General Prefect of Bible and Communication, introduced the 24 Major Organisms with Cybermissionaries who were to be sent. This was followed by the recitation of prayers by four participants from different continents (Fr. Vincent Ojowang, CMF, from Africa; Damaris Ayala Baez from America; E. Joselito Mac Jhon Buendever, CMF, from Asia; and Ignacio Virgilito from Europe). Father Henry gave the closing remarks to conclude the meeting.
A Cybermissionary is a Claretian with a compassionate heart and attentive ear who surfs the Internet to meet and connect with people in the cybercommunity, expressing God’s love and compassion to them. The biblical foundation for this mission is found in Genesis 37-50, which tells the story of Joseph the Dreamer – (their profile); in Luke 10:25-37, which contains the Parable of the Good Samaritan (their mission); and Revelation 7:9-10, which speaks of the men in white robes (their spirituality). Cybermissionaries are not simply social media influencers, technicians, or workers in Claretian offices. They are, first and foremost, “MISSIONARIES.” Their primary mission is to show concern for the wounded stranger on the periphery of the “communication highways,” to minister to the marginalized in the information society, to those who have been stripped of their privacy and identity, to those who go online because they feel disconnected, and to those who are searching for truth, hope, and compassion. They are “neighbors” in the global village called the Internet and are prophets in the information society. They are coordinated by Fr. Nelson Puthenparambil, CMF, assigned to the General Curia in Rome, a member of iClaret.