Kids’ Page, Faith Alive, reviews highlight new material
COVID-19 kept much of the world at home for months: out of the office, out of school, out of stores, and out of church. It also drove people online more than ever before. For many, the only way to stay connected was virtually.
The staff in the diocese’s Office of Communications used the opportunity to improve the website of The Catholic Virginian, which is under the auspices of that office, in order to give the faithful another place where they could connect with God and each other.
The initiative was a collaborative effort between the Office of Communications and the diocese’s Office of Information Technology. Janna Reynolds, digital communications writer and web content coordinator, and Ashly Krebs, circulation and database specialist, spearheaded the planning process. They were helped by Eric Sund, diocesan director of IT; Lynn Mooney, Pastoral Center web/database developer; Doug Hazard, web developer; and Brian T. Olszewski, editor of The Catholic Virginian. The team spent hundreds of hours turning their ideas into a polished project.
“First and foremost, we wanted it to be more user-friendly,” Reynolds stated. “We have provided this new platform to make it a little easier for people to find out what’s going on not only in the world, but in our own diocese. We are really proud of the way it’s set up to allow people to find exactly what they’re looking for.”
This was accomplished by giving the entire website, www.catholicvirginian.org, a cleaner, more organized look.
“It’s more engaging. It’s more visually appealing,” Krebs echoed. “Everything is present right away to your eye, whether you’re on the computer, cell phone or tablet.”
The homepage highlights top stories from around the world, as well as trending stories from across the diocese. Bishop Barry C. Knestout’s “Christ Our Hope” column is also featured on the homepage.
The overhaul of the existing Catholic Virginian website more prominently displays news divided into local, national and global sections on the homepage. These categories, the Spanish section and the bicentennial time capsule are available from the drop-down menu. When a user clicks on one story, links to related stories are generated, allowing the reader to further explore a topic of interest.
Columns featured in The Catholic Virginian, including Letters to Father Doyle, Believe as You Pray and In Light of Faith, as well as commentaries and letters to the editor, also have their own menu tab. Archives of those columns are also available.
The video gallery containing videos of concerts and messages from Pope Francis is now more visible to users via the Media tab, which also includes a new photo gallery feature containing images from diocesan events.
Other additions to the site include reviews of movies, books and video games, as well as a section geared toward children.
“I wanted the Kids’ Section more than anybody,” said Krebs, “I have three kids, and I was so grateful during COVID for sites that had free activities. I thought, ‘Why shouldn’t we have those things for our Catholic kids?’”
The Kids’ Section includes faith-based comics, coloring pages, word searches and readings. These activities are a great resource for parents who can keep their children occupied while they have fun learning more about God.
The Faith Alive section offers inspirational stories about people who have turned their faith into action. One story features a woman who has sold hundreds of pieces of religious jewelry with proceeds going to support women who have suffered miscarriages. Another focuses on an NFL player who proclaims his Catholic faith as a top priority in his life. Other Faith Alive material focuses on holy days and liturgical seasons.
The Catholic Virginian doesn’t want visitors to just read the stories, but to share their own. Users can submit their own photos and story ideas to be considered for posting.
“We really hope they take advantage of this and share something, big or small,” Krebs said. “We want people to be interactive with the paper. We want them to know that we want to hear from them, and we are listening to them.”
The project took longer than anticipated due to the pandemic, but the team is pleased with their work.
“Based on post-launch comments I’ve received, it shows that the end result was well worth the amount of development work involved in delivering a truly innovative, yet easy-to- use website for the Richmond Diocese faithful,” said Hazard. “I am beyond pleased with the final result, and consider this the very best work I have done in 20-plus years.”
One constant of The Catholic Virginian, whether in print or online, is its passion for positive storytelling. The website will allow for even more uplifting stories to be shared.
Deborah Cox, director of the Communications Office, addressed the importance of this.
“In a year where people are using technology more and more to remain connected, we feel this digital upgrade of The Catholic Virginian website could not have come at a better time,” she said. “My hope is the faithful and our community use this site to be inspired and to benefit from the material offered, whether you are a young person or young at heart and through the faith stories and exceptional storytelling that may sustain them through challenging times.”
Cox noted that Pope Francis spoke of the importance of storytelling in his message for this year’s World Communications Day.
“Our Holy Father wrote: ‘….we need to make our own the truth contained in good stories. Stories that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together,’” she said.