Connecting parishes to people in the pews

Arcdiocesan initiative offers free Flocknote account for parishes

Local pastors and church staff are dreaming of the day when they can share Christ’s message with their parishioners at the click of a button.

Their dreams are becoming a reality as the Archdiocese of Denver launched a new initiative to help parishes use the latest technology to communicate directly, and instantly, with their flock.

More than 100 priests and church staff attended a series of workshops—including one on Aug. 14—hosted by the Office of Communications to help parishes launch Flocknote, an email and texting communication tool.

“We’re interested in new ways to reach our parishioners,” said Father Robert Wedow, parochial vicar of St. Theresa Parish of Frederick, who attended the workshop. “We recognize the power of these (smartphone) devices. This has a lot more potential than I ever imagined.”

Surveys show that a large majority of Americans—about 85 percent of young adults and 71 percent of Hispanic adults—use a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. Flocknote is designed to help parishes meet their flock where they’re at—on their phones.

Some 33 parishes in the archdiocese already claimed their free Flocknote account in order to reach parishioners beyond its Sunday bulletin and pulpit announcements.

Matt Warner, founder and president of Flocknote, shared with attendees that Flocknote is not simply a communication tool, but a way to share the message of Christ.

“It’s not really about a tool, it’s about helping you do something meaningful,” he told the packed workshop held at the St. John Paul II Center in Denver. “Most parishes can’t reach half of the people in their pews on Sunday. At the end of the day this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make that connection.”flocknote logo 1

The Office of Communications is giving every parish access to a permanently free Flocknote account to increase its ability to reach parishioners. Flocknote is just one of several digital communication tools offered to parishes as part of the office’s Denver Parish Connect initiative, a new effort to bring faithful together to pray, think and act as one Church.

Joshua Karabinos, associate director of marketing, works in tandem with David Hazen, associate director of digital services, to host the workshops and lead the initiative.

Karabinos said effective communication is increasingly important for faith communities.

“Effective communication has always been integral to all we do as faith-filled communities. In this new missionary era, it has a heightened importance,” Karabinos said. “The Office of Communications welcomes the opportunity to share with priests, parish staff and parishioners not only the reasons Flocknote has been so helpful but how it fits into a broader strategy for improving their ability to connect with their communities more intentionally.”

Flocknote has been an effective tool at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield, said Mark Thomason, its director of faith formation. They’ve reached more parishioners by delivering messages—ranging from snow closures to messages from the archbishop—directly to parishioner’s email inboxes and cell phones.

“This is only to get you to get people to meet Jesus,” he said to others during the workshop.

Parishes are on the frontlines of communication with faithful and should be supported in its efforts, Warner said.

“You really want to help the parishes first,” Warner told the crowd. “That’s where the rubber meets the road. You guys are the ones that are ministering directly to the parishioners of the archdiocese. We’re really excited to start this project here.”

After the workshop, Father Joseph LaJoie, parochial vicar of St. Stephen Parish in Glenwood Springs, wrote that he hoped to launch Flocknote at the parish in September.

“I’m just very pumped up, encouraged and excited to get some ideas started,” he shared.


Did you know?

People check their mobile phones up to 150 times each day
Millennials outnumbered Baby Boomers for the first time in 2015
64 percent of American adults are smartphone owners
Adding video to your email gets 300 percent more clicks than text alone

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Pew Research Center, Wistia,


Parish priests and staff pose for a group photo with Office of Communications staff outside on the St. John Paul II Center campus.

Parish priests and staff pose for a group photo with Office of Communications staff outside on the St. John Paul II Center campus. Photo by Andrew Wright/Denver Catholic


COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.