Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Click all ye faithful ...

Plans for a new website from the Vatican. A "Vatican Myspace" according to Business week [Hat-tip to Amy]. But also a fascinating report on the little known religious who's the brains behind the Vatican website: Sr. Judith.
How did an English major from a tony American beach town end up becoming the Internet nun? It was a winding path, but a search for meaning in life runs through it. After graduating from Hofstra University on Long Island, where she studied Irish drama, Sister Judith joined the Peace Corps and spent two years teaching English in rural Thailand. Later, back in the U.S., she studied to teach English as a second language. But meeting a group of nuns, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, rekindled her childhood Catholicism, and she joined the abbey in Meriden, Conn. "I was looking for something meaningful and eternal," she says.

As a member of the abbey, Sister Judith got assignments with social service agencies that landed her in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Over the years, she took an interest in computers and set up computer networks and telecommunications systems in relief agency offices around the world. She was called to the Vatican in 1991 to help out with its computing chores. "She had the skills, and she was also very much an international personality -- thanks to all of her travel," recalls Mother General Shaun Vergauwen of the Franciscan Sisters.

Sister Judith identified the Web's potential shortly after it exploded on the scene in the mid-1990s. She and a small group of Vatican techies took the idea of launching a Web site to John Paul, who quickly gave them the go-ahead. It was a humble beginning: Sister Judith posted one Web page containing a single document, the Pope's 1995 Christmas Message. But the site expanded rapidly and now contains a huge storehouse of information -- not just for the faithful but for art lovers, historians, and tourists.
And what about blogs? Nope.
While Sister Judith is quick to embrace the latest technological innovations, don't expect to see Vatican bloggers anytime soon. A blog is "so personal, such a mind dump," she says. On the Internet, the Vatican draws the line at self-indulgence. Pride, remember, is one of the seven deadly sins.
Mind dump? Heh ... :)

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