The major website project which the JCC began last year is well on its way to completion. The purpose of the project is to create a more prominent web presence for the Jesuits of the Irish Province.
Irish Jesuits are involved in a great number and a great variety of projects, and all of them share in a common Ignatian spirit. Our challenge was to ensure that both this diversity and this unity would be reflected on the internet.
To this end the JCC commissioned a web developer, Donal Roantree, to build a content management system (CMS) specifically to meet the needs of the Province, and hired a web designer, John White, to create the different websites using the CMS.
The CMS is the core of the project. Think of a website as like a car. Just as under the bonnet of a car, hidden from view, there is an engine which powers it, so too is there, behind many websites, a management system which manages and controls it. It enables you to add and organise articles, images and multimedia, to stick on features (a blog or a discussion forum, for example), and generally to ensure that the site stays fresh and relevant. Nor does it require any great technical skill. If you are able to use Microsoft Word, you would have no difficulty with our new, purpose-built CMS.
When the project began, there were five Jesuit sites which requested to be involved. That number has now risen to nine, and there has therefore been a delay in bringing things to completion. We are happy to say, however, that we are now at the point of producing the first one, for Studies, and it will go live in March 2007. The remaining eight sites are in preparation and will be launched over the following four months. While each of them will have its own look-and-feel – its own graphics, colour scheme, layout, and so on – they will all bear the ‘family resemblance’ that befits the work of the Province.
It should be noted too that our project is about more than simply producing a series of good-looking websites. Over time we will be adding highly interactive elements to whatever sites require them. There will be blogs (web diaries), discussion forums, and webpages that can be edited by select users (wikis), all of which will mean that the websites will not merely be a front for Jesuit activities in the ‘real world’. Rather, they will themselves be forms of ministry in their own right.
The internet is more than a library. It is a meeting place. With properly constructed websites, Jesuits will be able to engage with many people that they might otherwise have no occasion to meet. They can engage at a more visible and interactive level in the social and cultural debates of the day. Surely Ignatius, who showed the foresight to purchase a printing press in 1556, would recognise the great evangelising possibilities in this.