Thursday, March 18, 2010

Website Reviews-Miscellaneous

I've had a bit of a back-log for sometime on websites that I've reviewed for Intercom but not yet published as they don't seem to come under any particular heading so hopefully these will give you something new to look at! Do let me know if you have any other suggestions.
As always, much thanks to Intercom for letting me reprint the reviews here!

The website of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin was updated in Autumn 2009 and the result is a slick and accessible site. The changes have meant that an already successful site with a wealth of resources now is very easy to navigate with the help of clear menu bars and a permanent footer. The site intends to be outward looking and open to church news and faith stories from around the world. To this end, the site uses a daily email, links to Facebook and Twitter pages, Flickr (a website that hosts photographs), an RSS feed and a webcam at Portlaoise Church to keep users up-to-date and to expand the outreach capabilities of the site and the work of the diocese. News is also included from the Vatican and around the world. One of the stronger elements of the site is the excellent graphics that are used both to illustrate international stories of interest and also local reports.
The site’s vision and reasoning for the development of the site should provide encouragement for those who are about to develop their own parish sites. Taking inspiration from Matthew’s Gospel that states, “a city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden.” With this, the Church is always called to publicly witness to the faith, to go beyond the familiar. The Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin believe that we cannot hide from this challenge and can take comport from the fact that we are not alone in this task and can be enlightened by the online commitment of our fellow believers from near and far.

The Proclaim website is run by the Irish Redemptorists who announce the Word of God in many languages. This website is well maintained and bright and colourful, using plenty of apt images to illustrate the three main sections that information is divided into. Word Acclaimed contains links the texts from the current day’s Liturgy of the Word alongside links to the Liturgy of the Hours from Universalis, podcasts from the New American Bible and Papal messages on The Word Proclaimed section is particularly innovative contains a video (hosted by YouTube) of the homily of the previous Sunday from the Redemptorist community in Clonard; the Liturgy can also be viewed live from Clonard and Limerick. The third section, the Word Inspired contains valuable information and resources for both clergy and laity on the biblical prophets, the Gospel of Mark and The Eucharist in the Gospel of Luke.

Websites on Mission:

The website for the Ceifin Centre for Values-led Change is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in finding out more about mission from the Internet. The website is very easy to navigate and remains uncluttered despite having ample information regarding upcoming events of the organization on the home page. It also allows users to purchase publications and reports of the group and access the proceedings of its various conferences and provides a “media update”. The Links page is particularly useful, providing access to both government and voluntary agencies’ websites.
Times have moved on when the main way on contributing to “foreign” missionary work of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart was through dropping some coins into the “missionaries of the Sacred Heart” boxes that are still to be found in many shops throughout the country. Now there is also the opportunity to contribute to the work of the group through the suggestions on their “Support Us” page. The site is very informative, particularly in relation to their News sections and the information on missions both in Ireland and in more exotic climes. Those involved in education will find the sections on the groups work with those suffering from HIV and AIDS particularly useful with the use of visual aids of videos and graphics.

The IMU (Irish Missionary Union) website offers a variety of resources and information for those interested in the impact of Irish missionaries both at home and abroad including the link to the “Justice Desk” providing links and press releases on issues effecting missionary work throughout the world. The Mission Alive website is a sub-site of the Irish Missionary Union and a colourful and informative resource, especially for educational resources for Mission Month. There is an entire page devoted to various activities that individuals and groups such as prayer groups and schools could undertake to increase their participation in Mission Month. One small but helpful application of the website that others would do well to follow is the facility for displaying pages in a printable format, saving on paper and allowing for clearer printouts. The site also gives details of “Missionaries with Messages” competition for second level students as well as links to videos on the YouTube website and various audioclips.

Some of the better Parish websites I've come across:

Many Irish parishes are turning to the Internet to share information on their work and for those who are not familiar with the parish to find out more information.
The website of Longford parish in the Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnois is a well designed site with clear and accessible menus that make any information on Mass times, parish resources or groups easy to locate. The site is also well worth a visit for pictures of St Mel’s cathedral in Longford, both before the tragic fire on Christmas Day and during the emergency itself. The site offers full details of how you can donate to the rebuilding of this beautiful place of worship as well as details of how the community are coping with loss.

The website of the Ballygall parish, Dublin 11 is a good example of a parish that is keen to explore all avenues of engaging people in the parish, in this case by using the “cyber door” to get a taste of the life in their parish. Going from the aims of the site on its homepage, it succeeds in being both informative and friendly as it is about the people of the parish who journey in faith together and who try to live by gospel values. The parish is obviously proud of its role as a 21st century parish and has embraced the technology that is now becoming popular whereby Mass and other liturgical celebrations can be broadcast live to the house bound and to residents of nursing homes, as well as to those who for reasons of distance cannot attend a particular Church ceremony, such as a funeral liturgy. This service is called “MyBallygallTV” and thoroughly embraces the idea of spreading the message of the gospel to all.

The parish of Our Lady and St. John in Carrigaline in the Diocese of Cork and Ross is an excellent example of how a website can be set up, in this case by the parish’s communication sub-committee to provide a simple yet efficient information site. While the site does not indulge in multimedia links and feeds, the information on the site is kept up-to-date and relevant for both parishioners and for those who wish to find out more information on the parish and the services it offers. The layout of the site is fresh and uncluttered and includes plenty of graphics to break up the text, including a link to the parish’s Flickr (photo sharing website) page.

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