It’s useful, and it’s beautiful: new ArchDen.org reflects vitality and enthusiasm

On May 28 the Archdiocese of Denver introduces its all-new, completely redesigned website www.archden.org. The site features all of the useful information visitors typically seek online, plus one benefit they may not have expected: God’s presence.

“There can be the danger for a diocesan or parish website to focus on the utility of a site and forget that it can also be a great evangelization tool,” explained Karna Swanson, director of communication for the archdiocese. “It was important to us to make sure that we were using this website not only as a place to offer information … but that it’s also a place where you can find Christ.

“We wanted to make sure there were elements in the website that lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ.”

Swanson and the development team aimed to do so by providing multimedia formats including audio and video, prominent images, the ability to share information easily through social media, and establishing a platform that is 100 percent responsive, meaning the design automatically adjusts to any screen size including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

“The landscape of the Web has changed significantly over the last several years,” said David Hazen, associate director of communications. “And it’s been more than five years since our last redesign.”

People aren’t just experiencing the Web at their desks, he continued, but on their tablets at the breakfast table, and on their phones, and everywhere else.

“Our audience is not just in the pews but on the digital continent,” Hazen said. “Furthermore the Word was made flesh and dwells among us, so doesn’t it make sense that we would want to share the Incarnation wherever people are, wherever they’re looking for answers to questions, wherever they’re looking to connect with other people, wherever they’re seeking the true or good or beautiful. We should be there to present the same because that is who Christ is, and that is the mission he gives us.”

The site was built on a WordPress platform by the South Carolina-based Web design and development team Fivable, the same agency that designed the Denver Catholic Register website, www.DenverCatholicRegister.org, launched last November.

The new archden.org has many of the resources of the existing archden.org, plus new and enhanced features including: Archbishop Samuel Aquila’s page with his homily podcast, the archbishop’s columns, letters, other writings and Twitter feed; a parish locator with key information such as Mass and confession times, as well as maps and directions to each church; a school locator, priest and deacon directories, a custom page for each office and apostolate, an events calendar, multiple contact forms to reach various offices, resources and articles related to youth ministry, sacraments and Church teaching; and a site-specific search engine allowing visitors to find information quickly.

“The new site has all our resources we had in the past,” Hazen said. “But it is also reflects the life of the Church in the Archdiocese of Denver.”

The hope is that the site will match the energy, enthusiasm and vitality of the Catholic community in the archdiocese, Swanson said.

“This is such a vibrant archdiocese with so many initiatives, apostolic ventures, and so many people who are active in various apostolates,” she said. “And we want to give them the best platform possible to showcase what they’re doing.”

Father Randy Dollins, moderator of the curia and vicar general for the archdiocese, has been impressed with the new design.

“It is fresh and contemporary, just what we need right now,” he said. “It proclaims the Gospel and presents information in a clear way.”

The days when an organization could put up a website and “let it go” are gone, Swanson said.

“Technology is changing every single day,” she continued. “We have been very intentional in creating a flexible website that we are able to change as we need to.”

She encouraged people to visit the site and to start to get to know its features; to join in the journey.

“After the launch we’re going to continue developing it,” she said. “This will always be a work in progress; we’re always going to try and make it better every chance we have, so we’re really open to feedback.”

Feedback can be submitted at www.archden.org on the contact page.

Features of the newly redesigned www.archden.org.

Visual appeal
The new design is visually striking by using full-width images to highlight content. The site is now 100 percent responsive, meaning the design automatically adjusts to any screen size including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Archbishop’s Page
The faithful can stay in touch with Archbishop Aquila by listening to his homily podcast, perusing homily archives, watching video messages, and reading his addresses, columns, statements and letters.

Functionality
Parish and school locators allow visitors to search for the nearest church or school, complete with a map, directions, Mass and confession times, as well as photos and information about staff. In addition, a new built-in search engine is site-specific allowing for quicker and easier searching.

Dynamic
The flexible, easy-to-update design allows for multimedia platforms including photo albums, audio and video files, podcasts and blog feeds. The new design also allows the site to be continually updated as technology and user needs change.

Shareable
All media on the new site is integrated with social media for easy sharing of content with Facebook friends and Twitter followers. There are also multiple contact forms allowing visitors to share feedback, questions or other comments with specific offices in the archdiocese.

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.