Social media has changed all our lives, often negatively. We all know people who waste their day on social media, ignoring life’s true purpose. If you are on Facebook, you may be amazed at how hate and other un-Christian ideas pollute its pages. Last year’s Congressional hearings set off alarms regarding privacy and other concerns.
However, social media, with all its flaws, is the modern marketplace of ideas and cannot be ignored. As Pope St. John Paul II stated, “The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses.”
As knights and dames of Malta we are called to nurture, witness and protect the faith, and serve the poor and the sick.
The largest platform in which to witness our faith and works might be Facebook with its 2.27 billion active users. For example, when the Houston Region provided 500 families with groceries for Thanksgiving dinners, not only was this project witnessed locally, but through a Facebook post, news of that project reached 6,620 people world-wide. There were Facebook comments from as far away as Japan suggesting how others in distant lands could emulate the Order of Malta Thanksgiving Food Fair.
Our works make a huge impact locally, but through our witness on social media, we can also make a secondary global impact.
Federal Association’s Facebook Presence
Today, the Federal Association has a growing presence on Facebook. Our page has 1,350 followers across six continents. In the past 12 months, the number of followers of the Federal Association’s page has grown by 27 percent.
Surprisingly, only 47 percent of the Federal Association Facebook followers are from the United States. The majority live in 47 other countries and speak more than 30 different primary languages.
Our Facebook presence has captured the attention of Rome as 37 of our followers reside there and Italian is the primary language of more than 10 percent of our followers.
Regional Facebook Pages
Many of our regions have Facebook pages as well, including Baltimore, Central Texas, Des Moines, Houston, Lafayette (La.) Memphis, Northern Virginia, Pittsburgh, and Southern Maryland. Additionally, the Federal Association Auxiliary, the Order of Malta-Center of Care and the Prison Ministry have Facebook pages.
The Order of Malta in Rome has a Facebook page, as does Malteser and the Holy Family Hospital. Other associations and priories around the world have Facebook pages, which are fascinating to view, providing a glimpse of the Order’s activities around the globe.
Goals of the Federal Association Facebook Page
The goal of the Federal Association page is to supplement effective communication, which is essential to any strong organization.
The primary purpose of posts is to inform and activate our members in the 26 regions of the Federal Association. The Order of Malta is sometimes described as a family. Think about how modern extended families communicate. Do families in today’s world keep up with each other primarily via Facebook?
The second goal of the Federal Association Facebook posts is to communicate externally to the world, increasing awareness of our works and further witnessing to our faith.
The final goal of our Facebook posts is to stay connected with members, their families, and friends of the Order. While a Facebook page might not be the best connection, Facebook can be a frequent connection for the 1.47 billion people who log on daily.
Becoming a Facebook Witness
Rome has published a 96-page Communication Guideline. In posting comments, members should be careful to avoid creating any impression of speaking officially for the Order, delving into controversy, or discussing subjects better left to internal communication. This is especially important given the fact that the Order maintains diplomatic relations with 120 countries and has relief missions in volatile parts of the world. Keep in mind the goals of the Order’s various Facebook pages. Before posting, on any Facebook page, pause and ask, “Does my Facebook comment reflect the final words of the Daily Prayer of the Order, to “promote God’s glory, the world’s peace and all that may benefit the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem”?
Don’t just “follow” our pages. If you like a post, “like” the post. If it’s a meaningful post, “share” the post. If you have Facebook friends who might want to follow the page, “invite” them. “Invite” not only other members of the Order, but your friends and clergy who would be interested.
Finally, social media is meant to be interactive, so submit comments, pictures, videos, and links which would be of interest to our followers.
Let us witness to our faith and our works to the world so that they may glorify our heavenly Father, the world’s peace, and all that may benefit the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.