HomeChurch & AsiaFilipino priest uses popular app to reach out to youth

Filipino priest uses popular app to reach out to youth

Since his ordination as a Catholic priest two years ago, Roberto Oliveros has been leading the Youth Ministry in his parish.

He admitted that dealing with young people has been a demanding task that requires innovations, which he described as a “modern approach” to the ministry.

One day, out of curiosity, the young priest tried the latest “in thing” among young people, the social networking service TikTok.

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service that is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos.

The app was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in markets outside of China.

Father Robbie, as he is fondly called by young people, had a series on Facebook dubbed “Hugot ni Father.”

“Hugot” is a Filipino slang that is roughly translated as “drawing out emotions.”

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The priest would post Gospel reflections on social media and relate in on day-to-day experiences and realities in the community.

The young people in his parish, the St. Catherine of Siena Parish in the Diocese of Bayombong, told the priest to try TikTok because it’s a “hit” even among celebrities, especially the youth.

Father Robbie tried to produce a one-minute video and was later on got hooked on TikTok.

People, mostly the youth, welcomed the priest’s posts and thanked him for sharing his insights.

“I always believe in cyber theology, that there is logic even in social media apps, a language that when we try to understand, we can always integrate in our preaching the message of the Gospel,” he said.

After a little more than a month, Father Robbie’s account gained more than 12,000 followers.

The priest has already learned to mix the sacred with the funny as part of his “vocation campaign.”

Aside from his reflections, he also posts videos of him singing worship songs, dancing to trendy music, and even making faces “to make people realize that priesthood isn’t boring at all.”

One of his most viewed videos carries the caption: “Jesus will be there as our light.” It has more than 20,000 views.

In the post Father Robbie assured his viewers of “God’s presence” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of the enhanced quarantine, people have more time browsing their social media,” he said.

“Now I relate the Gospel readings to what we are experiencing — fear, death, uncertainties, poverty, panic, and I continue to assure them that God is always here with us,” added the priest.

For Father Robbie, every “Amen” comment that he gets, every like and share of his posts, is a “manifestation of God’s relevance.”

He said the mobile app has also become a venue for people to consult with their priest about family relations, guidance on forgiveness, and even Catechism for children.

Another video of Father Robbie is of a 3-year-old girl trying to pray. Many found it “cute” and became a starting point for discussion on how to teach children to pray.

“People who are supposed to be in TikTok for fun will eventually encounter God and will get assurance to face their own realities,” said the priest.

He admitted that not everyone is happy about his way of reaching out to parishioners. Some have discouraged him from using the app.

But Father Robbie said he always remembers the call of Pope Francis for priests to go out to the streets and shepherd the flock.

“TikTok is one of those streets that we need to visit,” said the priest. “The Church should also be there.”

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