Mary Hess 2015

Digital Media and Faith

Whether reading a newspaper on a tablet, using a cellphone app to check a bus schedule, or sharing wedding pictures on Facebook, society is growing increasingly reliant on digital media as vital forms of communication.

Digital media serve many purposes, allowing us to increase our access to information, broaden our ability to express ourselves, and create community. At the same time digital media can be confusing, chaotic, prone to misinformation and even on occasion dangerous to our pursuit of truth.

The role digital media play in education – and especially in faith-based education — is something Dr. Mary Hess has dedicated a significant portion of her academic career to studying.

“Media are an environment in which we make meaning, “says Dr. Hess, who is the Patrick and Barbara Keenan Visiting Chair in Religious Education at the Faculty of Theology. Therefore, she stresses, media can play a vital role as we ask what it means to seek and to share faith in a secular world.

Incorporating digital media into the classroom encourages teachers to meet students where they are, calling upon what is often one of their preferred methods of learning.  And because young people are often more up to date on the latest media than adults are, the resulting classroom dynamic is mutually beneficial, with both teacher and students transformed in the process as they work together.

In the coming winter semester, Dr. Hess will offer a class entitled “Education, Media and Evangelization,” exploring the impact of the intersection of these three components. The course, which runs Mondays from 5-7 p.m, beginning on January 9,  will look at the conceptual and communicative dynamics of multiple and changing contexts, and will include exercises in using specific digital media for engaging those contexts effectively.

“This is a class for anybody who finds themselves in a role of leading learning and who cares about the Christian faith,” she says.

Because Dr. Hess is a visiting scholar who will only be with the Faculty for this academic year, auditors are strongly encouraged to register and take advantage of this opportunity. The Faculty is also willing to offer this class as a stand-alone course, with the option to enroll in a degree program at a later date.

Along with the winter semester course, Dr. Hess is also offering a free two-part workshop called Digital Storytelling as Faith Formation, ideal for teachers, catechists, parents and anyone who wants to find ways to express their faith lives and are interested in preparing for the Lenten season.

“Stories matter as a way of understanding ourselves,” she says, adding that digital media allow us to share our stories, helping to engage with community and deepen our faith in the process.

“Media allow us to express human experience,” she says, “And if we believe we are created in God’s image we should be encouraged to share our experiences. What draws us into movies and music can be experientially transcendent, allowing us to see God in all things.”

The workshop sessions take place January 24, 2017 and February 7, 2017 in Charbonnel Lounge, and build upon each other. Each session runs from 5-7 p.m. Participants are asked to bring three pictures. One should call to mind a moment of forgiveness; one should be an image which expresses vulnerability, and one should be a picture which evokes joy. (Digital photos are preferred, on a phone, tablet or laptop.) To register, please click here.

Dr. Hess is also offering a free public lecture on March 28, 2017 at 7 p.m. in Fr. Madden Hall. The lecture title is Create, Share, Believe: Storying Faith in a Post-Church World.

For more information on how to enroll in Education, Media and Evangelization or the digital storytelling workshops, please email us