Continuing our regular interview series with new media experts and innovators, today we talk to Deacon Greg Kandra.
Besides running the popular “Deacons Bench” at Patheos.com, Deacon Greg serves as a deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. He also worked for 26 years as a writer and producer for CBS news and has been honored with many awards including two George Foster Peabody Awards, two Emmy Awards, and four awards from the Writers Guild of America.
1. The first question is the simplest: why do you blog?
I began blogging for several reasons. First, there weren’t really any blogging deacons out there. When I was searching the Internet for resources for, by, or about deacons, the pickings were pretty slim. So I decided to strike out on my own and see if I could contribute something.
Secondly, I didn’t feel as if there were many blogs out there speaking to the Catholics I knew: ordinary, faithful people going to church every Sunday and doing their best to pay the bills, put the kids through college and try to avoid, in the process, eternal damnation. Too many blogs were skewed to people who were either very progressive, or very conservative. They also tended to be strident and, often, angry. I wanted to capture the middle ground, and offer a Catholic perspective that was accessible and entertaining.
Finally, I thought it would be interesting to post my homilies on a weekly basis and see if there was a wider audience for them.
2. Why should other Catholic clergy engage New Media tools like Facebook, blogging, and Twitter?
Blogs and social media are a great way for clergy to connect with people – not just around the block, but around the world. I’ve been amazed at the readers and commenters that I’ve been able to collect over the years, from places as far away as New Zealand and the Philippines.
From my experience, people are hungry for information, for inspiration, for encouragement, for connection – and the blogosphere helps create community and spark dialogue among a wide range of people. It can also be a useful tool for evangelization, drawing the curious and the questioning into discussion. I’ve heard from so many people over the years who say “The Deacon’s Bench” has been a welcome gathering place for like-minded people, and a useful clearing house for ideas. This is especially true among men who are discerning the diaconate. The Bench has become for me a kind of ministry, and a way of teaching people about this vocation.
3. What’s one interesting story from your new media activity?
Probably the most meaningful episode from my blogging experience is one I wrote about a couple years ago in America Magazine:
One night in August, on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption, I decided to check my e-mails before going to bed. I wasn’t startled: there was one item in my in-box with a subject line that read, “I lost one of my students today.”
I sat down and took a deep breath.
It was from a Catholic teacher in Newark, New Jersey. One of his pupils, a 15-year-old boy, had been shot and killed that morning while sleeping in his own bedroom. News reports said a neighbor downstairs had been handling a rifle, and it had gone off accidentally.
The teacher was devastated. He said that he wrote to me because he just needed to get it off his chest.
His e-mail said, in part: “I am stricken with grief at a time when my heart would otherwise be elated — but I know my young student, my child, celebrates this feast in the arms of the Blessed Mother.” He asked for prayers — for himself, his students, and the boy who had been killed.
I didn’t know what to say. I wrote back to him, offering a few words of consolation. I told him I’d pray for him.
But something, I felt, had changed.
The flickering words on a computer screen spoke of something greater, and deeper, and sadder than anything else I’d encountered in my months of blogging. In the middle of all the bickering that I’d found in the blogosphere, I’d clicked open my in-box and encountered a moment of unexpected grief, and profound grace – beautiful, heartbreaking, soul-wrenching grace.
If you are interested, you can read more from that essay about blogging.
For more great stuff from Deacon Greg, check out his blog, “The Deacons Bench” over at Patheos and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.