Q & A with Sr. Christina Neumann

by Dawn Araujo-Hawkins

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Franciscan Sr. Christina Neumann wears many hats at St. Anne’s Guest Home, the assisted living health care facility her community runs in Grand Forks, N.D. She’s a receptionist, the editor of the resident newsletter, the main sacristan in the chapel, and – from time to time – she’s also a personal care aide.

But when she’s not doing all of that, she’s thinking about things like search engine optimization and what that means for future vocations. That’s part of the reason why, in the last eight months, she’s started two new blogs: one for St. Anne’s Guest Home and another for the Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen.

Neumann talked to Global Sisters Report about her blogs and why she thinks they’re important for the future of religious life.

Had you done any blogging before you started these two blogs?

No blogging. I went to St. Kate's [St. Catherine University], and I majored in written communication. I've been editing the St. Anne’s resident newsletter for the past three years and I do the web page for St. Anne's also. My background in writing is coming more into play, but I had never done any blogging.

So what made you decide to start blogging?

This past November, I'd been hearing about blogs and how they're good for public relations and search engine optimization, so I offered the idea to our administrator about doing one for St. Anne's and she was like, 'Yeah, sure!' So I started that one in November, and I noticed it was helping us get traffic and build community relations. Then, in February, I was thinking, that would be a good idea for our community – to do something like that, so I talked to our provincial superior, and she was totally for it.

It started from doing one blog for St. Anne's, our facility here, finding that to be a good thing and then applying that to our community and doing it for our sisters. Our main theme is just day-to-day life, what inspires us. I set up Twitter and Facebook accounts when I set up our community blog, because with WordPress – the platform I use – there’s a feature where you can have it automatically post. And so whenever I write and publish something on the blog, it automatically posts to Twitter and Facebook. That’s great for search engines; they find stuff on Twitter and Facebook really easily.

Talk to me a little bit about search engine optimization. Why is that important for a religious community?

Well, there’s kind of two reasons for having a blog. One is that it’s a good way of connecting with people who are already friends of the community; it's a way to stay in contact and stimulate that relationship. With the St. Anne's blog, one of our people said, "I don't get to Grand Forks anymore very often, so it's great for me. I love being able to read it and stay connected."

But the blog is also for young people today who may be interested in religious life but have never heard of us. It's a way for them to just happen to see this and maybe be interested. So hopefully it might foster vocations in our community, too. So who knows? Time will tell. 

I’m guessing you’re a younger sister in your community. Do you ever feel a generational divide when you start talking about all this web stuff?

Some people who are older are less open to it or are less interested in it – I suppose age probably does play into it. However, there are older people who are interested and do do it, so you can't just say because you're older you won't do it. I mean, I didn't grow up with social media – like Facebook and that kind of stuff started after I was out of school. And then I was in novitiate, which, during that time you're more closed off from the world because when you're in your first-year novitiate, at least in our community, it's a lot of study and prayer and not a lot of Internet use or contact with outside.

It’s good that your sisters are so supportive! Do a lot of them contribute to the blogs?

I send an email out to our sisters who have email saying, 'If you want to write something, I'd be very happy to have more involvement.' We have community meetings a couple times a year, and at our past one, I said, 'Please, if you could write something, I would appreciate it. I'd like to get more people involved.' So I've done that. And I've gotten a little bit of contribution, but I would always like more! 

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is staff reporter for Global Sisters Report, based in Kansas City, Missouri. Follow her on Twitter @dawn_cherie]