At 40, Bishop Thomas Dowd is not only the youngest bishop in Canada, he’s also the second youngest in the world. While his age may give him an advantage with the younger generation, it’s his tech-savvy approach that has helped him connect with thousands across the globe.
From live tweets to Facebook updates to blog posts, Canada’s youngest bishop has made a social media connection with the online community, spreading the word of the Catholic Church throughout the internet sphere.
Bishop Dowd started his online networking eight years ago, becoming the first Canadian priest to start up his own blog – an online journal written in the first person.
After six years in the seminary and two years at a Laval parish, he started blogging in 2003 as a way to answer a simple question that parishioners would often ask: What does a priest do all day?
“Many of them wondered what the life of a priest was like apart from Sunday mass, and it provided them a way to see into the joys and challenges of priesthood,” he tells CCSTA. “It also gave them a chance to get to know me better.”
Since he first started blogging, he’s gained a large readership.
“It has achieved its goal,” he explains. “I’ve received responses from all over the world, and from people of all walks of life, not just practicing Catholics.”
He says being online allows him to reach a global audience and if it means connecting with the community in a medium that makes people comfortable, he’ll do it.
“The fact of community is more important than the fact that they are online,” he says. “To be online is a means to create those connections that build community and allows people to approach me, as a pastor, at their own pace and comfort level.”
Documenting his Bishop ordination
When called by the Pope to become a bishop in July, he accepted. He was even encouraged by the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, to continue to use his blog to reach out to people and try to build community.
And that he did.
Following his meeting with Archbishop Quintana, Bishop Dowd wrote a blog posting outlining their conversation. From that day, he blogged about his journey as he approached his bishop ordination in September. Offering a first-person perspective, he gave everyday readers a glimpse of the life of a priest making the transition to bishop – including his hunt for Episcopal purple stockings.
Ordained at the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown Montreal Sept. 10, Bishop Dowd stay connected to the online community, live tweeting throughout his ordination weekend celebrations.
Now that he’s an official auxiliary bishop in Montreal, Bishop Dowd says he hopes, as Canada’s youngest bishop, to engage all generations.
“A bishop is a bishop for everyone,” he says. “However, I do hope I will be able to help people of younger generations start to exercise a greater role in the life of the Church, and in the action of the Church for the benefit of the world.”
As for the future, Bishop Dowd says globalization brings transformation for social institutions of every organization, including the Catholic Church.
“I think we are going to see some profound transformations in our church and in worldwide society in that time, much more than we think. The Catholic Church is already incredibly multinational, but I think a new global culture is emerging that will need to be addressed as such,” he says. “Our challenge will be to adjust without ever losing the deposit of the faith. As a successor of the apostles, my job will be to help us stay close to the faith of the apostles in the midst of all this.”
To read Bishop Dowd’s blog, visit http://bishopdowd.net/blog.