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Healing culture by communicating presence

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OSV Institute

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 04/26/21

What would it take to transform the digital landscape into a channel for God's love and mercy?

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Can social media be a force for good? This question feels urgent in today’s world.

Social media is present everywhere, for better or worse. Americans spend over two hours a day on social media. But the jury is out on whether this time is well spent. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s probably not.

But what would our world look like if Christians became channels of God’s goodness on the internet? How would social media change if Christians practiced charity and prudence online instead of engaging in partisan battles and making hasty judgments?

“Can you imagine what would happen if we allowed ourselves to begin seeing each other” as “worthy of love” and “worthy of goodness?” Sarah Yaklic asks. This question is at the heart of her OSV Talk, “Healing Culture by Communicating Presence” (available to watch on Vimeo and Facebook).

The video is one in a series of OSV Talks, which shine a light on creative means of evangelization, springing from the wisdom and deep prayer that energize these approaches. The talks, which are similar to TED Talks but with a Catholic focus, are free and available for anyone to watch at OSVTalks.com.

Yaklic is something of a warrior against the vitriol that all too often dominates social media. She is a digital media specialist passionate about transforming social media into “places of authentic encounter and avenues for healing and connection.” 

Yaklic started her digital evangelization career in the Archdiocese of Washington. While there, she managed the nation’s digital outreach for Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the United States of America and yielded global trending across the archdiocesan social media platforms. 

Later, at the University of Notre Dame, she worked with President Jenkins in launching Grotto Network, a digital initiative aimed at reaching young adults who were away from practicing their faith. Her work at Grotto led her team in securing two Emmy awards for sharing faith stories in creative and engaging ways. 

Today, she serves Archbishop Gomez as the Chief Digital Officer for the nation’s largest archdiocese.  In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, she led them in becoming the number one archdiocesan presence on social media and in launching LA Catholic Stories, a video series designed to share faith through witness and storytelling.

“God’s asking me to help him communicate along the digital highways,” Yaklic explained her vocation in her talk.

As a digital evangelist, Yaklic points people to Christ’s divine mercy. “We’re living in a merciless culture,” she said, but “the answer to living in a merciless culture is a person. It is Jesus Christ, who is love and mercy Himself.”

Pondering the image of Divine Mercy has yielded Yaklic rich spiritual insights. She encourages viewers to take to heart these three truths:

1Christ’s mercy is endless

“The first thing Jesus taught me about divine mercy is that the font is endless and it flows freely for us,” Yaklic said. She used the image of Niagara Falls to explain how freely and abundantly Christ’s mercy flows.

2All we have to do is receive His mercy

“Jesus invites us, ‘Come, approach the font,” Yaklic said. Christ only asks us to be open to receiving the graces He pours down on us.

He loved us so much that he takes his wounds and and from His Sacred Heart pours forth everything we would possibly need. He just invites us to receive it.

3Jesus gives us the opportunity to be that font

Finally, those who receive Christ’s mercy have the privilege of channeling His love to others.

“Jesus gives us the opportunity to be that font,” she said. Of course none of us can love just as Christ does, but “we can be a reflection of that mercy. We could pour out that mercy on everybody else we encounter.”

Yaklic shares many other important insights in her talk, such as how to be conduits of God’s mercy online. Presence and openness are of primary importance, she says.

If we could see each other through the eyes of Christ, Yaklic said, “we would transform the digital highways for good.” Instead of being a place of destruction or hurt, the internet “would be truly that place of building bridges, of learning new ideas, of making God’s love and mercy known in the world.” 

Changing the internet for good is a tall order, but it’s a worthy mission for modern disciples. Yaklic leads the way with a clear vision for those called to this transformative work.

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