Roamin' Catholic Seniors

Encountering Sister Caroline Cerveny, a “Franciscan techie” with soul

on October 29, 2014
Sister Caroline Cerveny

Sister Caroline Cerveny

When I signed up to attend the recent Technology Summit II: Technology in Parish Life in Villanova University, I did it expecting to spend the day in an alternate universe rather like the ones Captains Kirk and Piccard often encounter on Star Trek episodes where the aliens look like you should be able to communicate with them but, without a very good translator, you can’t.

Going in with the skills of a glorified computer typist, flip-top cell phone wedged into the deepest recesses of my purse and not an iPad or tablet to my name, I was armed only with an urge to soak up some crumbs of knowledge, some insights on getting up to the digital speed so necessary for contemporary communications.

I worried that a raft of millennial and even younger presenters could dash that hope with a flow of factoids, tips, techniques and trends above my skill set. Never once did I anticipate encountering an age appropriate role model.

As it turned out, the anticipated millennial “Geeks” never materialized. In their place were well seasoned “Geeks” of a certain age, all pioneers in the field of helping the faithful navigate the highways and byways of cyberspace. Among them was Sister Caroline Cerveny, founder of Internet Connections, who specializes in faith based educational technology and digital catechesis.

During her break out session, Sister Caroline, a Sister of St. Joseph, Third Order of St. Francis, scored immediate points with me by dating herself — all the way back to 1983 — when she made first cyberspace contact by way of an encounter between a 12-year-old consumer and a Radio Shack salesman.

Recalling that encounter, Sister Caroline said she realized that she “didn’t understand a word they were saying” throughout the pair’s lengthy conversation.  But as those moments ticked away, she did realize that something new was in the wind and that if she didn’t explore what it was all about, as an educator and catechist, she would soon be out of date.

She recalls “picking the brains” of people she knew — including her brother who was employed by a data company — to get some insight and setting out with him on a shopping trip over Thanksgiving vacation to learn more about the computers that were available in those early days including an Apple Lisa which she remembers as “very expensive” and not in the budget.

At the time, she was the diocesan consultant for junior high education in Chicago and she recognized that the technology could be a boon for Catholic education. But she took some time and did a lot of networking and reaching out to those who were also early pioneers in the field, coming up with a plan that would encourage her religious order to embark support for encouraging the use of the technology in ministry.

Over the years, her interests and expertise grew to the point where it became her mission and mainstay. At 71, the popular speaker and author describes herself as “not a geek” but as someone who uses technology tools to enhance learning.

She views this technology as a boon for people of all ages and points to the many ways it can benefit seniors, primary among them, she says is “keeping connected to the global world.”

It’s a brain stimulator, she says. “What you can learn on line is incredible,” says Sister Caroline  who calls time spent on the internet especially beneficial to the scores of “life long learners” among the seniors. “You get to choose from the best source material,” she said. “You get to stay in contact with people and that is so important. You get to stay curious and creative and young at heart,” said Sister Caroline.

She added that she was glad to see quite a few “grey heads” bringing their own going curiosity to the conference. It’s clear, she said, that they are “riding the wave of what’s happening.”

 

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One response to “Encountering Sister Caroline Cerveny, a “Franciscan techie” with soul

  1. Thanks for the encouragement that exploring technology is worth the effort.

    Liked by 1 person

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