CONNECTICUT (FOX5NY.COM) - Bishop Frank Caggiano recently got some social media suggestions from Kolbe Cathedral High School students in Bridgeport, Connecticut. You might say he is a social media sensation—at least inside the Bridgeport Catholic Diocese. A YouTube video posted to the bishop's Facebook page got 70,000 views.
Bishop Frank, as he is known, has Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts. He explained that social media is a powerful force in young people's lives. It has affected the way they speak, socialize, and communicate. So three years ago, the bishop decided to tap into that power. In doing so, he is following the holy father's example.
Pope Francis has more than 15 million Twitter followers. Bishop Frank said that if the church's leader in faith is willing to use social media, then why wouldn't his diocese?
"I want to inform them about the Catholic faith. I want to get them excited to fall in love with what I love," Bishop Frank said.
And has help. He hired a millennial, John Grosso, 25, to be the Bridgeport Diocese's social media leader.
"We've seen explosive growth on every account that we've launched," Grosso said.
Some of Bishop Frank's posts are so popular they have become regular segments—like "Wednesday Wisdom" and "Faith Fridays." Bishop Frank provides the content, usually before dawn, and Grosso does the posting. He decides when and on what platform to put the bishop's spiritual guidance, personal stories, and pictures. Grosso said he is trying to build an online community of Catholics that connect with god between Sunday masses.
"Any way that we can reach out to the youth of today is an excellent method to get them a little more engaged in the church," Kolbe High Principal Henry Rondon.
What the bishop is doing online has Catholic clergy around the country taking notice. The Catholic Church has struggled in recent decades with a clergy sex abuse scandal, dwindling mass attendance, and the closing of Catholic schools.
"Most Catholics are not necessarily coming to church on Sunday so it's extraordinarily valuable," the bishop said.
Using social media, the bishop hopes to bring some older Catholics back to the church and encourage younger ones to give faith a chance. His method is to meet Catholics where they are, in fact where most of us are, online.
"Our goal is to unite people—not divide people," Bishop Frank said. "I think the church has to be a positive force to help young people and young adults be formed in a way that's going to make them healthy, happy, joyful, and future leaders of our society and the church."