Joe Garcia is the "senior evangelist" at Texas-based eCatholic, the largest provider of Catholic parish websites. The job title reflects his twin passions of Catholic evangelization and information technology.
Garcia was one of the young people from 20 dioceses whom Catholic Extension gathered five years ago for a Young Adult Leadership Summit. At the time he was the IT director for the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas. He credits the summit as the springboard that got him involved in young adult ministry in his diocese.
'We realized," Garcia said, "that our particular age group is in danger of becoming a 'missed generation' for the Church."
The young adult group he helped to organize - based at his parish, St Thomas, and at the cathedral parish, St Mary- eventually became a successful model for young adult ministry. By the time he left Amarillo in 2013 to join eCatholic, the group was drawing 125 young people to its schedule of events, which mixed fun activities, service projects, prayer and worship, and invited speakers to discuss faith and Church topics.
Reflecting on his professional career of helping the Church use today's information technology; Garcia noted, "The Church as an institution is sometimes slow to adapt, and technology is the complete opposite: It changes constantly. It's really important for the Church to be able to use today's social media tools and have a strong online presence."
It's particularly in this area that parishes and Catholic organizations could draw in young adults. "Successful parishes have harnessed their knowledge and skills," Garcia said, "and have been able to do some really cool things."
Garcia himself is a powerful testament to the importance for the Church to invest in its youth.
When his company launched an online giving and payment tool for parishes, he was shocked by how little money most Catholics give to their parish. eCatholic Payments aims to simplify the tithing process and help Catholics give more frequently.
The company decided to tithe 10 percent of all the revenue it generates through eCatholic Payments. Coming full circle to his first connection with Catholic Extension, Garcia convinced eCatholic to dedicate that portion of its revenue to Catholic Extension initiatives supporting seminarians and retired priests.
"Catholic Extension was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do," said Garcia, "We're really excited about this partnership because it gives us an opportunity to give back, lead by example and show people that giving more is possible and can even be incorporated into a business."
Photo credit: James Barrett