What does "Catholic innovation" really mean, and why do we need it so much?
Without any context, the phrase “Catholic innovation” might give a person pause. What exactly does it mean? Tradition is not only a great strength of the Church, but also an integral part of the Deposit of Faith, so the idea of doing things in a new or different way might sound odd or even be concerning.
“Catholic innovation” does not refer to changing doctrine or tradition, but actually is the very opposite of that: It refers to using the best available technology and practices to bring the ancient riches of the faith to a new audience.
“When I think of Catholic innovation, I think of St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization,” said Eric Groth, President and CEO of ODB films, in an interview with Aleteia. He said,
Catholic innovation is referring to new methods and new ardor. It’s not about changing the truth, beauty, and goodness of the faith, but on a practical level asking ourselves, how do we walk as disciples of Christ? How do we run our church operations? How do we organize our communities? How can we breathe new life into our functionalities as parishes, as dioceses, as Church, and as individuals, in all aspects of who we are? It brings a new excitement, a new energy, instead of just doing things in a stagnant way. The idea is to do things differently, not for the sake of doing things differently, but from a desire to keep growing and learning and sharing the truth in new and fresh ways—never changing orthodoxy, but on the contrary, lifting it up and bringing new attention to it.
To fully understand Catholic innovation, we can look to the examples of great saints who used the best technology of their time to spread the Gospel. St. Maximilian Kolbe, for example, had an amateur radio license and started a radio station to give a Catholic response to the troubles in Germany during his day. Blessed Carlo Acutis was passionate about computers, and used his skills to create a “virtual museum” online of Eucharistic miracles.
It takes both wisdom and ingenuity to use new media in service to the Gospel, but saints like Maximilian Kolbe and Carlo Acutis show us how to do it, and do it well. Today, there is a growing movement to imitate their examples and harness the power of technology to spread Christ’s message.
A leader in this movement is the OSV Institute, which has worked with ODB Films to create a series of “Catholic Innovation Talks.” These talks shine a light on creative approaches to evangelization, springing from the wisdom and deep prayer that energize these creative approaches. The talks are free and available for anyone to watch at OSVTalks.com.
The format and presentation of these talks are reminiscent of a TED Talk or TEDx Talk, and that similarity is not an accident. The filmmakers researched the process of making TED Talks in creating the OSV Innovation Talks.
TED Talks are famous for helping people understand the world in new ways and see things differently—indeed, the organization’s slogan is “Ideas worth spreading”—and the filmmakers hoped to bring a similarly inspired energy to the Church. “We can use these talks, and that approach, to be more innovative and entrepreneurial in how we run our churches and live as Catholics,” Groth said.
“The purpose of the Innovation Talks is to spark discussion, explore new approaches in all parts of church life, and inspire more creative thinking,” Groth said. “We connect with and bring in speakers from all over the world with a key area or special interest that’s something they’re passionate about, and then we help them present that in a way that people can access easily.”
The speakers have a message to share that can be helpful to just about anyone. “In the speakers we select, we look for people who will build a bridge and encourage people in their lives and as Church,” Groth said. “They’ve married Catholic discipleship to who they are in the world, and can be accessible and invite people to the table. Our goal is to get the message they want to communicate out there, so they can draw others deeper into a relationship with Christ in the world.”
Ultimately, of course, the goal is to strengthen and encourage all those seeking Christ, helping the Church to communicate the Gospel effectively. “Evangelization is the responsibility not just of the institutional Church and the clergy but of laypeople,” Groth said. “Our baptismal call is to be prophet, priest and king, and we can ask ourselves, ‘How am I living that out on a daily basis and helping my parish live that out? How can we practice greater hospitality to the community for evangelization and discipleship? How am I helping and contributing?”
In an era when many Catholics are leaving the Church, the time is ripe for rethinking the best ways to communicate and share truth. “There’s a crisis of people leaving the Church; what can we do about that?” Groth said. “It’s not about catchy programs but about re-evaluating how to love and share the Gospel in new and fresh ways. How can my community be a place where people thrive on sacramental life and community life?”
The answers to these profound questions will be different for each person and each parish. But the OSV Innovation Talks are there to encourage all of us in the process, helping the Church to imitate the saints in using the best resources available to serve Christ in today’s world.