Pokémon preaching?

Remember Pokémon? In the late 1990s, little yellow Pikachu character seemed to be everywhere. Even I, who knew next to nothing about the original video games, had a Poké ball with a captured Pikachu inside it sitting on my desk, thanks to a family member.

Well, it’s back and you might find it at a church near you as part of Pokémon GO, the new app released last week by Niantic Labs. It’s part geocache, part game and part exercise aid, and takes its users into their own neighborhoods in order to “catch them all.”

Earlier this week, several law enforcement agencies issued warnings about the new app — just released July 7 — due to fears of trespassing and misuse by pedophiles. And one should always be wary of the latest craze, and be aware of the potential dangers in their surroundings.

However, there is also a perhaps unexpected benefit from Pokémon GO for churches. Catholic News Agency has also found that the app is leading people into churches and that can offer a boon to religious communities — and a chance to evangelize. How? Well, turns out that the maps used by the app contain many local landmarks from Google Maps. And those landmarks include church buildings. Read more about how Catholic parishes are using the unexpected boom in visitors to get the “Good News” out. See how at CNA’s story: http://bit.ly/29UFVt7

RELATED: Bishop David Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, tweeted about Pokémon on July 12, noting how the phone app was drawing people to churches.

The tweet went viral and was followed by a second tweet  by Bishop Ricken, who uses Twitter to reach younger Catholics through social media:

Matthew Livingstone, social communications director for the Diocese of Green Bay was surprised and pleased by the huge response to the tweets.

“Early on, right after the tweet was shared,” he said, “a couple prominent Catholic figures with decent followings retweeted it, and it simply grew from there. Individuals from all sorts of backgrounds started retweeting, sharing with it their own commentary on the link it made between faith and culture. People want ways to hear and see that connection between the two, in a contemporary way.”

About Patricia Kasten

Kasten is the author of “Linking Your Beads, The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers,” published by Our Sunday Visitor Press.  Her newest book, on sainthood – “Making Sense of Saints. Fascinating Facts about Relics, Patrons, Saint-Making and More“, was published by OSV in Spring 2014.  She is also a puzzle-smith. Her weekly Scripture Search puzzle (see The Compass) and bi-weekly The Cross Word, both based on the Sunday readings, appear in Catholic newspapers and parish bulletins around the country.