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Beyond Tools: Understanding and Engaging the Internet as a Cultural Mission Field

Overview and Rationale

In his message for World Mission Day 2019, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all "Baptized and Sent" to share the Gospel with the world, an imperative that today extends beyond the physical boundaries to the vast and complex digital landscapes. As the Pope advocates for a Church that goes forth, it is increasingly clear that our missionary efforts must also embrace the digital realm, where countless souls spend their time and seek meaning. 


At this critical juncture it is imperative that we get to know these “new worlds” just as we did for physical lands. There can be no hope of effective ministry or evangelization without understanding first. Just as we have historically supported overseas missionaries adapting to the new cultures and needs, so too must we recognize and support our digital missionaries, whether as official missionaries of the church or as people living out their baptismal call. These individuals are called not only to inhabit but to actively engage in the digital continent—evangelizing, forming communities, and spreading the light of Christ. To truly live out our call as a Church that reaches out, we must equip and empower these digital missionaries, affirming their vital role in our ongoing mission to communicate God's love to every corner of the human experience.



This project seeks to explore or map the new digital spaces, and then to suggest theoretical, theological, and especially pastoral fundamentals for engaging the internet not merely as a tool for evangelization, but as a distinct cultural realm. Through a comprehensive exploration of digital culture, the project will address how the internet serves as a vibrant milieu where faith is explored, expressed, and experienced uniquely.


By examining how digital interactions and narratives shape and are shaped by religious experiences, this initiative aims to equip the Church to authentically and effectively minister within this digital landscape, recognizing the internet as a dynamic mission field where the sacred and secular intertwine. Through this lens, the project will help make possible a more profound ecclesial commitment to understanding and engaging with digital culture as an integral part of its missionary calling specifically addressing questions like the following:

  • How does digital culture shape young people and also older ones?

  • What interactions between Catholic “influencers” and “followers” are underway? [to understand the dynamics both sympathetically and critically]

  • What supports do digital missionaries need in order to operate effectively, in fidelity to Church teachings, in communion with their Bishops, and in network (community) with one another?

  • Are there specific points of importance regarding clergy, consecrated people, lay people (both volunteers and salaried) as they engage online as  missionaries (evangelists), catechists, pastoral workers

“Digital culture represents a fundamental change in the way we conceive of reality and consequently relate to ourselves, one another, our surroundings, and even to God.”​

2023 XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops Synthesis Report



Background research, secure funding, build research team, identify global digital missionaries

Conduct interviews with digital missionaries, analyze transcripts, compile secondary research

Write results, solicit feedback, finalize publication, build website

Publish book and go live with website

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Research Participants

If you've been selected for an interview, please click the button below to fill out your informed consent prior to your interview.

This project is generously supported by Porticus, a philanthropic organisation focused on creating a just and sustainable future where human dignity flourishes. 

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