GREEN BAY — What should the church’s response be to Pokemon Go? According to Julianne Stanz, diocesan director of the Department of New Evangelization, it should be go — as in “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Stanz and members of her department have created a Pokemon Go resource guide for parishes called “A Parish Primer: Responding to Parish Questions and Concerns.”
The four-page guide (available online at www.gbdioc.org/images/pokevangelization.pdf) gives a description of Pokemon Go, definition of key words, the history of Pokemon and an explanation why parishes should care about the video game.
“In the new Pokemon Go game, points, prizes and levels are gained by catching Pokemon and by going to gyms and PokeStops — tagged locations in the real world where users can stock up on gear and points for the game,” the document states.
It explains that these locations are determined by GPS coordinates and Google Maps. “Many of those stops are also located it churches,” it states. “Many parishes are reporting massive increases in foot traffic around their buildings and on their grounds. … The game is fostering relationship building between parents and children, neighbors and even among strangers.”
In an email to The Compass, Stanz said that the parish resource was created “in conjunction with a team of parish leaders skilled in evangelization outreach who are looking at using the technology as part of their ministry.”
She said her department received calls from parishes asking for information about the game.
“The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross and the (St. Francis Xavier) Cathedral (staff) had noticed more foot traffic to their locations at unusual times of the day by young people. They were curious how to approach these persons and what specific reasons they were drawn to their location,” said Stanz.
“Bishop Ricken, as a national leader in evangelization, entered into the Pokemon Go world with a tweet that has been shared thousands upon thousands of times,” said Stanz.
Stanz said making parishes aware of why people are visiting their church location is the first step in understanding and responding to the Pokemon Go phenomenon.
“The second step is to help parishes to evangelize those who are coming so that this can be a moment of opportunity and possibility,” she said. “It is likely that many coming to the cathedral, for example, have never been there before and the presence of a welcoming volunteer who engages them in conversation can make all the difference in cultivating a favorable opinion of the Catholic Church.”
Stanz, who has downloaded the Pokemon Go app and plays it regularly with her family, said some people may question whether the church should bother engaging people with new technologies such as Pokemon Go. She points to a few quotes — from Scripture and from recent popes — which support the engagement.
“The words from Jesus himself, who commanded us to ‘go and makes disciples of all nations’ and a quote from St. John Paul II to embrace ‘new ardors, new methods and new expressions’” give church ministers guidance, she said. “Pokemon Go is certainly something we couldn’t have predicted would bring people to our front doors but I’m grateful for every opportunity to engage people who we normally wouldn’t see for Christ.”