How does one respond to John Paul II’s challenge to get into the web and let the face of Christ shine in it?1 Here I retell how I first got into the web and share some pointers as to how to make the web an extension of one’s evangelizing efforts. Evangelization is first of all the integration of Christian life and culture. Hence web evangelization means the integration of your Christian life and your web culture.

Three years ago2 on the eve of the Christ the King I wrote this for an issue of the AgustinongPinoy Newsletter:

It is the eve of Christ the King as I write this. At the back of my mind is the image of the Lord enthroned as the King of the Universe and of all Nations. At the same time, the words of John Paul II about the Internet keep echoing:

The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man. Therefore, on this World Communications Day, I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world the glory of God on the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6).

The Pope’s message is I think clear: if the Internet will have the face of Christ, the Church — ” the community of believers” — must be there.

“The Church… the community of believers must be there…” I am still convinced of this, as others are. When I entered the web in 1999 I already found Christian communities — mostly non-Catholics — doing works of evangelization:

  • publishing parts of the Scriptures (there weren’t too many websites then with a full text of the Scriptures)
  • writing their reflections on particular bible passages (one of these was a Catholic at Tripod who later on published his reflections as a book)
  • families creating their website and showing how they are (this was true at BasicMinistries.ORG, the first Christian (and non-Catholic) webhosting I became a member of)
  • engaging other surfers in a discussion about the faith
  • and others…

One of the first Catholic websites that I saw was maintained by an Augustinian friar — Jack Pejza (He may have been in the Philippines once for a meeting among Augustinian educators). The website was — and is still — housed at Geocities, and it was because of this that I too built my first webpage with the Geocities webhosting service.

Jack Pejza’s website is a personal website. It tells about himself, his family, their origins and a lot of pages on St. Augustine. In fact, even today, one of the websites that Google brings up when one types “St. Augustine of Hippo” and “Augustinian Friar” is that of Jack Pejza.

“I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net,” — wrote John Paul II — “so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world “the glory of God on the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The first group of people I invited to visit AgustinongPinoy back in 1999 were teachers, and then students. We have just set up a new internet service at the University of San Agustin–Iloilo then, and my intention was for my teachers (I was Dean of Theology) to see how the web can be integrated into the Theology curriculum. The students were at the time being introduced to the web from within an academic context although some of them were already used to employing the web for socializing and entertainment purposes. How does a student make full use of the internet facilities to help with studies?

These concerns went into the way I went on to develop AgustinongPinoy, first from just a set of webpages, then to a static website employing dynamic content-generating facilities, and finally to what it is now.

How does one respond to the Pope’s challenge?

There are many ways to respond to the Pope’s challenge to populate the web and let one’s Christian faith shine through the web content that one generates for others. But there are basic steps that one should follow:

  1. Make sure you have an internet connection. This is something basic. One cannot depend on someone else for this. If you have a school account, then make use of it. If you don’t have internet connection at home, make use of an internet cafe. I’ve posted some of the contents of AgustinongPinoy from an Internet cafe that charges ten pesos an hour. Internet cafes have been proliferating since 1998. You find them even in subdivisions. Here at San Pedro where I am currently assigned, there is an internet cafe just a few blocks from the house where I am staying.3
  2. When you first log into the web, get an email account. This is the first act that one should make. Your email account is also your identity on the web. Make sure that the username you choose reflects the kind of identity you have. It is now possible to have email account names like “” so make sure that you have one that is respectable. An email address like “” won’t be as respectable looking as one that says your name.
  3. Many Filipinos make use of socializing websites. “Socializing websites” have been on the web since Excite’s Communities first came out on the web. The format of E-Groups.Com became so successful that it was eventually purchased by Yahoo. Now you have YahooGroups which you can join if you have a Yahoo email address. Presently there are a lot of these make-a-friend-kind-o-websites. Friendster is the most popular among the young, professionals go to FaceBook. You may register in one of these groups, perhaps you’d find groupings in these websites that can become your support Christian group. When I first joined the Excite Communities, I found an Augustinian Group there whose members came from the Villanova Province of the Augustinians.
  4. If you just wish to join discussions were the faith is the main content, you can register at websites like ChristianForums.Com. It is interdenominational with a large Catholic community mostly from the parishes in the United States.
  5. If, however, you really wish to respond to John Paul II’s challenge, your best bet is a place where you can post content that can be visited and revisited. It is for this reason that I’ve always rooted for personal homepages/websites. The WebFriar’s Lab was established precisely to teach the basics of HTML to those who want to create their own pages on the web. With a web address, that search engines can put into their databases and people can visit, you can now add to it facilities that will allow you to put your content in other people’s email boxes, e.g. a newsletter.
  6. Websites may be daunting. I have heard a lot of people complaining to me about slow internet connections, difficult to remember HTML codes, complicated procedures… Quite recently, a new type of content has been gaining a lot of popularity. I am referring to Blogs. And I’d like to write about it at length…

Blogging as Evangelizing

A “blog” is a nickname for “weblog” and refers to a journal that one keeps on the web. When the web was still young, it was a way for surfers to keep track of the interesting pages they found on the web. At this stage, of the web’s history, a “blog” would have been written on a webpage and an entry would look this:

Interesting stuff at

Then software developers began using development logs as a way to update their users about the state of development the software they are working on is currently in. For this group of journal writers, an entry can be as simple as this one:

Version 1.1.1 of YourSimpleNotepad is now available. Download it from this

The weblog changed its features when news reporters also began using it and when, finally, even teenagers (mostly girls) began using the blog to just write about their day or to update their friends about current goings on in their lives. The current characteristics of a Blog is a product of the confluence of uses made of it by geeks, developers, news reporters and teen-agers. Here are the basic elements you find in a Blog:

  • a date
  • an entry
  • a comment form
  • a list of links (usually on a sidebar)

And the nice thing about blogs is that you can find a lot of websites offering them for free and you don’t have to learn HTML to produce your own website. To give you an idea of how popular blogging has become among Catholics, here is the Catholic directory of blogs prepared by Gen X. Most of these blogs are found at Blogger which is at the moment the most popular weblog provider on the internet. Here is an example of a Catholic blog (not mine, of course).

With blogs like this — and they are many — that you can find through a search engine, would you still wonder why the late John Paul II wanted Catholics to get into the web and participate in a cultural engagement with it?

  1. This article is a repost from the year 2005.
  2. This was in November 23, 2002
  3. And this is true not only among the middle-class; there is also an internet cafe in our Homes-along-the-railroad.