With 14,500 Twitter followers and counting, Sister Helena Burns definitely defies many societal stereotypes surrounding preaching and #religion. As a member of Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, YouTube and Blogspot, the Daughter of St. Paul calls herself a ‘media nun’.
Daughters of St. Paul claim they’re the only order in the world whose sole mission is using media to “communicate the gospel in a digital age.” Using the power of social media, Burns stresses that she wants to “use the latest, most modern, most efficacious media… to reach the greatest number of people with the Holy Spirit”.
Undeniably, there is a symbolic disconnect between traditionally conservative nuns and the assumption of young people who use social media. It’s a striking contrast – A middle-aged nun deciding whether to use the ‘Hudson’ or ‘Valencia’ filter on her ‘selfie’ before Sunday mass, compared to a young girl deciding her filter before heading out for a night she won’t remember. However Sister Helena believes in closing this gap of age and faith by communicating with her audience as frequently as possible.
So, how exactly does a nun use social media? Burns mentions she “really tries to keep up with the comments on (her) blog”. “I’m also on Instagram and Vine a bit. During the day while I’m doing my other work, I’ll keep zipping over to social media”. So, in other words, it seems as though Burns uses and navigates around social media just like any other regular person.
Burns mentions that she believes “the Catholic Church is very good at education, tending the poor, soup kitchens, supporting families in need and missionary work. But when it comes to media, we don’t value it enough.” Despite Pop Francis’ huge Twitter following developing during his year as the Bishop of Rome, Burns believes the Church should strive to play a much larger role in pop culture.
Although it may seem totally anomalous that a nun would be on social media, in reality it can be totally mundane. In one aspect, Sister Helena Burns is just another social media user, posting ‘food porn’ photos of what she ate for lunch, uploading new photos into her ‘2k14’ album on Facebook and sending out silly tweets about Noah’s Arc. However this ‘media nun’ is also using every means available to reach people about the word of Christ, attempting to incorporate it into every aspect of life.
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