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The Wisdom of the Heart

AI and the Digital Ministry Space 

On January 24, 2024, the KPC team gathered with Catholic communicators for a “micro-retreat” on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales to reconnect to our vocation. During lunch, we reflected on Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Communications, Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication. Together we discussed how parishes are using AI and Chat GPT for everything from petitions during Mass to prayers within meetings. 

Just over two weeks ago, the independent non-profit Catholic Answers launched "Father Justin," a 3-D interactive “parish priest” to whom one could ask questions using his/her desktop computer's microphone and receive responses. Predictably, the internet did its thing. 

Last Friday, Catholic communicators working in parishes, shrines and at the diocesan level gathered for KPC’s monthly “Christ + Coffee + Communication” online meetup. During our hour-long discussion, we talked about how several of us are beginning to use AI on a daily basis, and we learned about “Hope,” a chatbot developed to assist those in need. 

AI has been a more frequent topic among our clients and our team. We are witnessing a unique acceleration in how we learn about, understand and engage with our Catholic faith. 

Pope Francis outlines four key themes to consider when interacting with AI. In his World Communications Day message, Pope Francis outlines topics questions to help guide Catholic communication best practices:

  1. Starting with the heart: When we engage with AI, do we tap into the wisdom of the heart? We are called to embrace this virtue, which helps us integrate our understanding of wholeness: our decisions and their consequences, our individual selves and relationship to our community.

  2. Opportunity and danger: Are we using this tech to extend beyond our own limitations in order to grow in community? Pope Francis notes that humans have always used technology to extend our human actions: for example, tools were the extension of arms, and modern media is an extension of the spoken word and communication. Now, we have developed algorithms and AI as “highly sophisticated machines that act as a support for thinking.”

  3. Growth in humanity: Is our engagement with AI supporting the professional communications field or undermining its efforts. Modern communicators and audiences have the responsibility to be “discerning participants” in the discourse we encounter.

  4. Questions for today and for the future: Looking ahead, we should ask ourselves how we can protect the expertise, dignity and professionalism of those working in the information and communication arts fields throughout the world. Are we building an environment where pluralism, the complexity of reality, and communication arts are well-preserved?

One of our communications inspirations at KPC is Fred Rogers, the longtime host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on public television. He was patient, methodical, inquisitive, intentional, caring. Above all, he was a genuinely authentic human being. He said, “Growth comes from giving care, not from control.” He created a space for dialogue and said the space between us is holy ground. 

How do we use AI and Chatbot technology to create the space for this “holy ground” – this space of encounter – in our parishes, schools, ministries and diocesan organizations?

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