Workshop explores how technology, addiction impact ministry

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Sister Lynn Levo, CSJ, presented a two-day workshop on internet addiction to three dozen priests, deacons and lay ministers Oct. 10-11 in Jackson. Sister Levo spent a decade at St. Luke Institute, a psychological treatment center for priests and religious. As a psychologist, her specialty is human development, especially as it relates to technology and sexuality.
“We have to look at the time in which we are living,” said Sister Levo. She explained that two major movements are happening right now – societal chaos and rapidly evolving technology. “We are seeing not change, but a deconstruction (of cultural institutions). This is a time of chaos and endings and real desire and need for new beginnings,” she explained. Set within this context, technology, including social media and what kind of content is available on the internet, is exploding. “Technology is not a bad thing. The challenging part is that it is coming so quickly, changing almost daily,” she said.
She hopes her workshop helped ministers realize that technology and this rapid evolution is here to stay and that it can “enhance a person’s life, but not be a substitute for it.” Sister Levo has seen the impact technology can have on ministry and ministers as their congregations grapple with some of the darker aspects of it.
The ministers brought their own concerns and issues to the workshop – even impacting some of the material presented. “One of the things I most appreciated about her was that she would go away from her prepared material to address questions or remarks,” said Pam Minninger, lay ecclesial minister for Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish.
Minninger said she and her fellow ministers really opened up to talk about topics they may not have brought up unless this opportunity presented itself. Topics ranged from pornography and its impact on men and young people; how to address same-sex marriage; transgender questions and social media challenges. Sister Levo was able to use her background in social science to speak about these issues from both scientific and pastoral viewpoints. She said she tries to run a relaxed workshop so ministers would feel comfortable bringing up any topic impacting their ministry or community.
“Technology is affecting our lives and our relationships. It affects our families and our ability to communicate,” said Minninger.
The committee plans to offer a workshop on homiletics in January and will continue to seek topics to assist those in ministry throughout the diocese.

JACKSON – Priests from across the diocese listen to a presentation on internet addiction on Oct. 11. (Photo by Maureen Smith)