PROVIDENCE - Almost 1,200 Web surfers viewed the online videos posted by the Office of Vocations for its 2007 Vocations Awareness Campaign, according to a statement released Jan. 25.
The office posted two 30-second ads on the You Tube server through the www.catholicpriest.com Web site. The videos, which were also broadcast on cable television Dec. 25-Jan. 31, encourages young Catholic men considering the priesthood to learn more about a potential calling to serve.
One video, talking about celibacy, had been viewed 699 separate times on the Web, and the other, discussing the sense of fulfillment felt by older priests, was viewed 495 times, according to statistics provided by You Tube. By the end of the month, the television ads were broadcast more than 480 times on local cable stations including Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports Net New England, FX, MTV, MTV 2, SCI FI, Spike, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel and TV Land.
Both ads, produced by the diocesan Office of Communications and featuring priests of various ages, may be viewed at www.catholicpriest.com.
The media campaign was launched to coincide with National Vocations Awareness Week, Jan. 7-13.
The following are a list of questions and answers, provided by the Office of Communications, posed during an interview with Vocations Director Father Marcel L. Taillon:
Have you seen a dramatic increase in traffic to the Web site?
There has been a significant traffic increase on the Web site since the inception of the new Vocation Awareness campaign.... While only a minimal percentage of men will actually contact the Vocations office directly, whenever someone becomes more educated about the discernment process, it is a huge success.... Obviously this has happened.
Have you seen a dramatic increase in calls or e-mails from men seeking additional information about the priesthood?
There have been a good percentage of young people who have seen the ads and talked about them in high schools and colleges across the state. Using local priests and so many of them in the commercials has created a "buzz" in many of the local communities where they serve.... This has sparked conversations and great challenges to young people and their families while they are watching television.
How will you gauge the effectiveness of this campaign?
The campaign is already effective in the ways mentioned above.... We don't look for hard numbers as a direct result of a campaign.... It is rather a part of a cohesive and extensive movement in the church to create a climate where priestly vocations are encouraged and supported. Prayer accomplishes the most and the most quickly.
Are you surprised by the number of hits the commercials have generated through You Tube? Is this strategy something you will attempt again next year?
You Tube is a new strategy that appeals again directly to young people ... particularly when someone speaks of a commercial to friends and they didn't see it firsthand.... Often, people will refer their friends to You Tube to see for themselves. This has been the second wave of benefits and a new one for us.... I am certain that, in a matter of a short time, dioceses will use this means on a regular basis. It is highly worthwhile.
Are there other ways that the Office of Vocations has utilized technology to reach out to young men?
The latest DVD entitled, "Fishers of Men," produced by the USCCB, is a new and highly powerful tool for both priests and prospects.... It is available at no cost by calling the Vocations office.
What have other priests said about the ads?
Priests and many lay people loved the commercial on celibacy in particular.... It is first for us and is timely and needed. We may likely do more of this type of catechesis because we have seem to hit a nerve that needed to be hit in order to be understood.
What is the next step after someone has expressed a desire to answer a call to serve Christ and his church?
If someone wants more information on seminary formation or the road to the priesthood, he should contact his parish priest or Father Michael J. Najim, assistant Vocations director, at the Office of Vocations, at 278-4633. The more information one has, the better it is for discernment and peace that God so much wants to give each of us.
(This article originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)