Priest offers tips for new media in evangelization, coupled with personal experience in new book

Tony Gutiérrez

Associate Editor

6/23/2014

GeekPriest-WEB.jpg

(Image courtesy of Franciscan Media)

Title: GeekPriest: Confessions of a new media pioneer
By: Father Roderick Vonhögen
Published by: Servant Books
Page count: 176
Price: $17.99

GeekPriest: Confessions of a new media pioneer by Father Roderick Vonhögen
Servant Books
176 pp., $17.99

Dutch priest Father Roderick Vonhögen, a world-renowned expert in digital media and founder of the Star Quest Production Network, a Catholic new media company, shares his own story of engaging in these new media in his recently-released book, GeekPriest: Confessions of a new media pioneer.

Fr. Vonhögen’s GeekPriest is not quite an autobiography. There are certainly autobiographical elements to the book, but he does more than simply write about his life. Each chapter follows the same format: He begins with an anecdote from his life, a tie to some aspect of popular culture, and then lessons he learned and tips he offers to his readers to overcome any related obstacles. There is a certain relatablility to the book, with Fr. Vonhögen not focusing too heavily on theology, but rather embracing not only new media, but other aspects of nerd culture as well.

Fr. Vonhögen first became Internet-famous while he was blogging about the Star Wars saga during the re-release of the original films in the ’90s, earning him the affectionate nickname, the “Star Wars Priest.” During that time, he blogged about the hidden Christian themes in the saga and was widely-read in the Star Wars blogosphere, even earning an invitation to attend the first Star Wars celebration.

Writing about his “unusual parishioners” who discovered the Catholic faith through his website, Fr. Vonhögen discovered the power of the Internet in transmitting the Catholic faith, setting the tone for the remainder of the book.

Later in the book, Fr. Vonhögen relates his experiences covering the conclave of 2005 that elected Pope Benedict XVI. He produced his first podcast while then-Pope John Paul II was in the hospital. While journalists around him acted as talking heads offering expert opinions on what would happen, Fr. Vonhögen’s podcasts were personal. Indeed, he grasps the concept of social media after attending an audience with Benedict for journalists.

“According to Benedict XVI, Catholics should inhabit this universe with ears full of faith, thus giving the Internet a soul. I felt tremendously encouraged by these words. They mirrored the way I had tried to work in new media: being present in social networks in the world of podcasts and online videos, not just with a message but with my heart and soul” (p. 109).

Fr. Vonhögen also offers the meaning behind the name of his company, Star Quest Production Network, as a tie to the three Magi’s trek to Bethlehem. “With our new media initiatives, we wanted to help people in their quest for the star….” (p. 133). SQPN’s approach to evangelization was invitational. Podcasts were produced about pop culture such as “The Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars.” A podcast was even produced dispelling the myths of the Dan Brown novels. When non-religious people listened to these podcasts, they’d pick up on themes and would be invited to listen to podcasts about the faith.

This engaging approach also created a personal online community where people from all over the world or from different backgrounds could come together with common interests. “Over time, the people in the audience started to know each other very well and began to form friendships….” (p. 135).

Reading GeekPriest, the reader comes away with not simply a retelling of Fr. Vonhögen’s life, but an invitation to also participate in evangelization, and in a particular way, through social media. “Like the Magi, anyone is invited to join this communal journey of faith and friendship. Including Jedi, geeks, and Hobbits. Including you. So what are you waiting for?” (p. 164).

GeekPriest-BUTTON.jpgDutch priest Father Roderick Vonhögen, a world-renowned expert in digital media and founder of the Star Quest Production Network, a Catholic new media company, shares his own story of engaging in these new media in his recently-released book, GeekPriest: Confessions of a new media pioneer. Fr. Vonhögen’s GeekPriest is not quite an autobiography. There are certainly autobiographical elements to the book, but he does more than simply write about his life. Each chapter follows the same format: He begins with an anecdote from his life, a tie to some aspect of popular culture, and then lessons he learned and tips he offers to his readers to overcome any related obstacles. There is a certain relatablility to the book, with Fr. Vonhögen not focusing too heavily on theology, but rather embracing not only new media, but other aspects of nerd culture as well.

Published