Monday, May 25, 2009

Websites for Parish Pastoral Councils

The website run by the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry (OPRFM) in the Archdiocese of Armagh, whose aims are to promote pastoral initiatives and family ministry within the diocese. The website is bright and kept well updated with links to resources, allowing for daily news updates and Mass readings. There is even a poll on the homepage which allows the user to interact with the site and not merely feel as if they are absorbing information. The site aims to inform with clear and precise information as to what the OPRFM does and who is involved. Many websites rely too heavily on written content, but this site strikes the perfect balance between written information and visual aids. The main menu on the home page allows for simple navigation of the site and the “Parish” link leads to ample information on pastoral renewal. Any resources on the site may be easily saved as a PDF file, printed or emailed, and the monthly newsletter of the Parish Evaluation Project is an excellent resource for any Parish Pastoral Council.

The website of St Patrick’s parish of Esker, Dodsboro, and Adamstown, Co. Dublin is an excellent example of a parish facilitating the changing needs of its parishioners in a world where information is so readily available on the Internet. The site is colourful and most importantly kept up-to-date with links to the readings of the particular day and easily accessible contact details for both the priests of the parish and those involved in administration. Some of the more laudable features of the site are the manner in which the site gives directions to the parish with a link through Google maps and the translation of the parish’s “Welcome Message” into ten languages. The details of the Parish Pastoral Council are easily accessed through the “Parish Groups” link and should be used as template for any PPCs who wish to post information on the Internet. The page clearly outlines the aims and objectives of the PPC in a logical and clear manner with contact information and minutes of the meetings included. The progress report of the Council is linked on the Homepage and the overall content gives the impression of an involved, easily accessible, hardworking PPC.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Internet Resources for Funeral Liturgies

Not the most light hearted of topics admittedly but one that I think needs further resources. My grandmother died in August 2008 and in preparing for her funeral Mass I was asked to collect some readings and a reflection piece. While my parish priest did have a "folder" of resources, I know that not all clergy do. People are becoming more and more attuned to getting information quickly and easily from the Internet (especially in making a booklet for the ceremony or having copies to distribute quickly and easily to readers-what is handier than "cut and paste"?) so I found it very frustrating when there was no website where I could easily access this information. This stuck with me and I attempted to assemble the good and the bad examples of websites for a column that was published in Intercom and has been adopted below:

Dealing with immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one is undeniably arduous. Aside from the emotional turmoil, the “practicalities” of death are thankfully unfamiliar motions for the majority of us, and are normally dealt with by a capable funeral director. The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has a well run website which offers links to its members’ websites and contact information’ as well as detailed information on the Code of Practice that all funeral directors should follow. Bereavement in Ireland has begun to feature more on the Internet, mainly because people have become used to retrieving information from the web and at times of loss this does not change. One of the more positive developments of this has been the setting up of as a considerable source of information on “end of life matters”. It features searchable death notices that are supplied by funeral directors, meaning that it considerably easier than newspaper notices to find out information about the funeral. The website also provides practical data on local and practical services. You can also send a handwritten sympathy card directly from the website. Whether this practice will prove popular in Ireland is another matter.

The majority of websites deal with the practicalities of arranging a funeral, but only a few deal with arranging a funeral Liturgy. Many priests use a folder of gathered readings and prayers to assist family members in preparing for the Requiem service, but this is not always the case and those who turn to the Internet for help may find it difficult to find suitable resources, especially when time and concentration may be constrained. One of the first websites the bereaved may turn to is’s sub-site “Requiem” page, accessible from the main menu on their home page. This site is more suited to those in the midst of the grieving process, rather than those arranging a funeral. The section on the Liturgy only contains a booklet that is customisable, but no links to readings or prayers that may be copied and pasted to the document.

One website  gives a list of readings and links to the text (though the text is the New American Bible). Several sites only give scriptural reference numbers which would only add to the workload of preparing the Liturgy. Obe website has a searchable New Jerusalem Bible (use the links to the individual books rather than the search engine), from which the text can be copied to a booklet.

An Irish website that deserves a mention for its clarity and convenience is that of Navan Parish, which provides PDF files of suitable readings, prayers of the faithful, and reflections. The first and second readings are helpfully grouped by theme, for example, “Trust in God” and “A Person of Faith”. Perhaps other parishes may find this website a helpful template for increasing the information available on their own webpages or as a supplement (or foundation) for their own Resources Folder.

Since this article was published, I have heard more and more people referring to in particular as the source for information on recent deaths, rather than death notices published in a newspaper.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Websites on Art

When I went online to research websites that would appeal to those interested in religious art, I presumed there would be a wealth of information. Instead, most of the websites are concerned with biblical art (no great shame to me mind you but there may be those interested in a more wider sphere!). Hopefully I'll be able to add to this list as more sites become live and indeed when more websites have unrestricted content.

This article is adopted from the original one published in Intercom.

One of the major advantages of such a vast resource as the Internet is the large amount of information that can be collected together and very easily accessed. Religious art is one such resource that is easily accessible on the Internet and sites such as Biblical Art highlight the ease of accessing such a great amount of information. There are 3,073 artists with 33,120 artworks categorised on this site which is searchable biblical subject, biblical text, artist, or by a simple word search. There is plenty of information on each piece of art, such as the date, the technique used and the subject of the work. Each picture is displayed with a thumbnail and the host site of the picture (usually a gallery or museum) is straightforwardly accessed with links that are kept up to date.

Other websites offer modern photographs of sites mentioned in the Bible and of archaeological digs as well as maps and paintings that would aid in any study of the Bible and Christianity. The site is best searched through “category” unless you require a specific picture and the site also features an excellent page of links to other websites. Several of the images on the site are for the sole use of students of Yale University but if you wish to use any of the accessible images, information on copyright issues is readily available from the site.

For a more hands on view of religious art, the website of St John's Bible is the resource for information on the newly published Bible that is handwritten and illuminated reviving a tradition that has been nearly absent from the Christian world since the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century. The Saint John’s Bible uses ancient materials and techniques to create a contemporary masterpiece that brings the Word of God to life for the contemporary world. The site is designed to inform the user of the complex process of creating the Bible. By using the links on the left of the home page such as “see and hear” users can view videos of the creative process and read interviews from those involved in the work.

For more mundane uses of religious art, if you use Microsoft Office, avoid searching for clip art online and encountering some less than trustworthy websites and head for their website for free good quality clip art as well as stock photos and symbols that can be simply downloaded and used in a variety of ways.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Website Review from Intercom-Marriage

This article was published in the May 2009 issue of INTERCOM magazine As copyright is held by INTERCOM I appreciate being able to reproduce the article here

Getting Married
This address should be the first port of call for all couples planning their wedding. This website is offered by and ACCORD as a service to all couples preparing for a Church wedding. The site is kept very up to date and well maintained with professional graphics and easy to follow links. Preparations for the marriage ceremony are detailed in stages, beginning at eighteen months before the date, right up to the date itself. The navigation tools on the left of the page provide an easy gateway to the information on the site which includes resources such as articles and recommended books on growing your faith and knowledge during a couple’s engagement. All aspects of the ceremony are explained in detail with a particularly helpful section on planning elements such as music and prayers. The site also provides an excellent wedding booklet that is fully customisable and is very professional. This option does require registration with the site.

The purpose of the website of the Catholic marriage care service is to provide the user with access to information and support, if you are preparing for marriage, seeking to enhance your existing couple and/or other relationships, looking for help with marriage and relationship difficulties, carrying out research or just trying to learn more about marriage and family issues. The site gives full details of the marriage preparation courses offered by the service, from where to find your local course to a superb explanation of what takes place during the course.

This sub section of the website of St Peter’s Vincentian Parish in Phibsboro, Dublin, is an admirable example of how a parish can specify the requirements for getting married in their church in a clear and informative way, making sure that requests which a parish has about sundries flowers, confetti and music are made clear to all parties and provides contact details were needed. Recommendations are given for church offerings, practical information which will avoid confusion for both the couple and the priest. The web page also sets out the civil and Church requirements for a marriage including what documents to bring to the meeting with the parish priest.

The website of the Irish College in Rome provides a good resource for those who wish to get married in the college, a popular choice for many couples. The site is navigated using a drop down menu on the main page. Details include all papers and documents required; several, such as the questionnaire are available for download on Pdf. There is also information on the costs of photography, how to get to the college and how to apply for a papal audience.