NEW YORK — This February, the HNP Vocation Office will introduce an electronic version of its newsletter, Be a Franciscan — a new way for the vocation team to reach potential inquirers.
The e-newsletter will replace the printed publication currently distributed quarterly. Both the general shift among organizations from printed to digital newsletters and the benefits of electronic communication encouraged the HNP Vocation Office to make the transition, according to Brian Smail, OFM,vocation director.
“Converting to an electronic newsletter will allow us to reach a wider audience of men discerning a vocation to Franciscan life,” Brian said. “People will now be able to share individual articles using email and social media. We will also have more flexibility with the timing of the issues, so we can provide news on a more current basis.”
Social Media and Extended Reach
An e-publication will allow the HNP Vocation Office to go where many young people are — social media. Readers will be able to easily share stories of this newsletter via email, and on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. (Facebook has more than one billion monthly active users and Twitter, over 200 million.)
Readers will also be able to comment on specific articles, allowing the vocation office to actively engage its audience in conversation. This interaction will result in dialogue about the Franciscans and help the office to connect with men discerning their call.
“The format of this publication is being designed in a way that will, in a brief and colorful manner, give readers a glimpse of Franciscan life,” said Jocelyn Thomas, director of the HNP Communications Office. “Each issue will include several articles, plus information about upcoming vocation events.”
The e-newsletter’s length will be short, both to appeal to busy people and encourage readers easily to display the publication, added Thomas, whose office designed the publication.
Though the e-newsletter will replace the Be a Franciscan print publication, Brian strongly encourages ministries to print and display the newsletter. It will come equipped with a QR code to enable readers with smart phones to scan the code and go directly to the vocation office’s website. There, they will see stories from student friars, event dates, and a place to sign up to receive more information about the Franciscans.
“Because it’s always important to have some print materials for display, I’m also in the process of creating a short ‘Be a Franciscan’ booklet. This will offer an overview of HNP and our ministries, along with vocation office information. We continue to circulate several brochures — ‘Picture Yourself in Brown’ and ‘Connect,’ which is aimed toward college students.”
Content and Distribution
Information in the e-newsletter will continue features appealing to potential candidates, such as friar vocation stories, the “A Day in the Life” series, articles about HNP ministries that young people might find attractive, formation milestones, and discernment tips and prayers.
Because the e-newsletter will not be confined to a schedule, the publication will be sent out as the HNP Vocation Office staff gathers stories. “The greater flexibility of an electronic format will enable us to offer news on a more current basis,” Brian said. “Once we get up to speed with the new format, I expect we will distribute the newsletter more frequently, but with less content per issue.”
The e-newsletter will be emailed to the more than 230 inquirers in the vocation office’s email database. A variety of other people will also receive it including donors, contacts at Franciscan colleges and ministries, and members of HNP vocation committees. The e-newsletter will also be sent to friars to keep them aware of vocation office activities and the need to promote vocations, according to Brian.
A sign-up option for the e-newsletter will be available in the online form used by inquirers to request more information about the Franciscan friars.
The vocation office is constantly striving to find effective ways to reach an audience. In 2008, the office’s creativity caught the attention of the media when its innovative “Day Shift, Night Shift: How About a Life Shift?” advertisement appeared on trains in the New York City subways. The ad inspired more than 40 men to call and inquire about the Franciscan way of life, Brian noted.
In 2009, the HNP vocation staff created a Facebook page, Be a Franciscan, and a blog to reach young people. That same year, the vocation office also created vocation teams in each geographic region of the Province to make recruitment efforts more visible and further promote vocations.
The print edition of Be a Franciscan was first published in 2010. This evolved from a previous vocation office publication, Insight and Wisdom, distributed from 2001 to 2009.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.