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Catholic Vancouver Feb. 1, 2018

Parish websites get Tilma upgrade

By Agnieszka Ruck

A groundbreaking communications platform created in the Archdiocese of Vancouver hopes to change the way Catholics across the Americas communicate and get informed. (Photo illustration by Inca Siojo)

VANCOUVER—A new digital platform that’s expected to revolutionize the way Catholics communicate has launched with Our Lady as its icon.

The Tilma Group, officially a non-profit in California since 2017, is finding innovative ways to connect Catholics across the Americas.

“Its mission is to unify the Church, bringing dioceses, apostolates, parishes, and individual Catholics together to learn, share best practices, develop solutions, and proclaim Christ to people in the ‘digital continent,’” said CEO Matt Meeks.

The new group unites members of the Catholic News Agency, the Archdioceses of Vancouver and Los Angeles, the Centro de Estudios Catolicos in Chile, and creative design team Glass Canvas in Fort Langley.

The team has come up with Tilma, an online platform with the potential to connect people from northern Canada to the southernmost tip of Chile with Catholic news, events, and resources relevant to them.

Meeks said it all began when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles connected with Vancouver and realized they had similar problems in curating and producing content. “It was our desire to work together to share resources and solve problems, rather than working in silos on the same issues.”

The group built Tilma, a digital platform to help Catholics connect to digital resources and to each other, locally and internationally.

“We chose ‘Tilma’ as the name because it is the medium on which our Lady chose to communicate the path forward for the Church at one of the most disruptive moments in human history, the discovery of the new world,” said Meeks.

When Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego in Mexico in 1531, her image miraculously appeared on his cloak, or tilma. That fabric sparked a widespread devotion to Our Lady and a basilica built on the site attracts millions of pilgrims every year.

“We believe that we live in an even more disruptive time period: the digital age,” said Meeks. “We are looking to the past to weave the Church together and trusting Our Lady to help usher the Church into this new world.”

Tilma has opened dozens of parish websites in Los Angeles under its new platform, and as of Jan. 31, seven parish websites in Vancouver too.

Father Anthony Ho unveils St. John the Apostle Parish's new website. (Photo by Agnieszka Krawczynski)

“It’s more attractive and welcoming,” said Father Anthony Ho, pastor of St. John the Apostle Parish. “That’s the hope: to really help people who want to connect with the Catholic Church take the first step.”

His parish's new website includes an eye-catching video of the church, information about Mass times, links to events and ministries, and resources about the sacraments and other Catholic teachings. Father Ho admits the new layout will take some getting used to, but is thrilled that his columns from The B.C. Catholic appear on the site.

“It’s a platform to help parishioners be more formed in their faith,” he said, eager to start promoting resources in time for Lent.

“I hope it will help parishioners have more faith formation, not only when they come to church for Mass, but even when they are too busy to join other activities at the church.”

Father James Hughes, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver, is looking forward to the pending launch of his new website under the Tilma platform.

“It presents a lot and has great potential. It could be a resource for both parishioner and non-parishioner alike.”

St. Patrick’s has been known for its hip websites in the past. He said his current site is attracting people to church that would never have come otherwise; one visitor from outside Canada told him she put the church on her bucket list just because she’d seen it online.

“I think clean-cut, integrated websites that speak more than to the mind, but to the heart, can be a means to help attract people,” said Father Hughes, eager for the upgrade. “This website reaches out and provides the people within the nourishment they need.”

A total of 21 Vancouver parishes are expected to launch new websites under the Tilma platform by the end of February.

Meeks said the benefits are great for local communities. “They will have access to a beautiful parish experience online with new content, local Catholic news, events, and activities to keep them engaged and diving deeper into their relationship with Jesus,” he said.

The archbishop and archdiocesan staff will also be able to increase communication back and forth with parishes.

“Ultimately, everything Tilma is doing is geared toward better serving the needs of the pastors and lay Catholics so they can encounter Christ and share him with others.”