Father Nicholas Pearce, also known as ‘A Priest Down Under’ wound down his blog last month.

It was a long time coming of course. Posts were few and far between in the last year, but Fr Pearce blogged regularly and at length in the beginning. I remember well the blog’s genesis. Then-Deacon Pearce and I were labouring through a winter intensive course in sacramental theology, and he registered apriestdownunder.com during a coffee break. (He paid too much for it, but I had to admit: it was a great name!)

The blog was initially intended to document the first twelve months of a new priest’s life. At the end of twelve months, he envisaged someone else taking over — a new newly-ordained priest-down-under, who could then blog about his first twelve months.

Problem is, I threw a spanner in the works when I started my own blog seven months after he started his. I think he had me lined up to take over A Priest Down Under, though I wasn’t privy to his plans at the time. I could see the good Nick’s blog was doing, and since I was in already in the habit of exchanging long e-mails with friends about all sorts of ideas, I decided to blog myself.

I’ve always loved Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest and I was astonished nobody had thought to rip off the title. It was only a matter of time though, so I thought I’d better get in first — even if I had to blog as ‘a Country Deacon’ for the first six months!

It’s true to say that this blog exists only because Fr Pearce’s blog existed first. I can only echo and amplify the farewell from Fr Adrian’s Sharp (also known as A Secular Priest): “Thanks for leading the way!”

Catholic New Media Conference

A lot has changed online even in the few years since A Priest Down Under’s debut. Pope Benedict described the Internet as a “digital continent,” and called on a new generation of missionaries to evangelise its virtual inhabitants.

Later this year, Melbourne will host a Catholic New Media Conference which is intended to assist people in this undertaking. The conference will “explore the new ways the Gospel message can — and should — be shared.”

The finishing touches are being made to the program and final calculations made for the registration costs for CNMC Melbourne (Catholic New Media Conference) on September 2-3, but we wanted to share some news on a few of the great speakers we’ve already secured for the conference and also pass along some other information.

Speakers include:

Father Roderick Vonhogen: Father Roderick has been involved in new media and social media since 1996, when his love of Star Wars and a blog on that topic introduced him to tens of thousands of fellow fans. After studying social communications in Rome, he started podcasting – initially from St Peter’s Square in the final days of Pope John Paul II’s life – and founded the Star Quest Production Network (sqpn.com), an international Catholic multimedia project. He has regular podcasts, hosts a TV show on Dutch television and is an international commentator of Catholic issues.

Bishop Julian Porteous: Bishop Julian Porteous is Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney and Episcopal Vicar for Renewal and Evangelisation. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Sydney on 7 September, 1974, served as Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Sydney from 2002-2008 and was named Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney by Pope John Paul II in 2003.  Bishop Porteous is a keen advocate for the New Evangelisation, and in 2010, recognising opportunities presented by new media, he founded Cradio (cradio.org.au), an Internet radio and podcasting service for the Church in Australia.

Catherine Smibert Toomey: Cath has devoted her career to giving a voice to the voiceless, and especially to that of the Church and its values, utilising integrated marketing, media and communications. Her time as a journalist saw her travel to Europe where she was employed by Vatican Radio, Zenit, CTV and H2Onews across her almost 8 years there.  She also worked as a Church correspondent for CNN and BBC in this time. For the last 6 years she has run an IMC Agency committed to quality and creative servicing of the faith-based and non-profit sectors.

James Bergin: James has been involved in digital ministry for over 15 years and is a director of Icon Media (iconmedia.co.nz), a Catholic new media company established in 2009. His projects include The 15th Station podcast network, of which he is the lead host, and the Being Frank blog, which he helped to establish in 2006. He has appeared on national television and radio in New Zealand speaking on Catholic issues. He works as a senior enterprise architect in the financial services industry, with a particular focus on strategy and innovation. He is married with three children.

I will be speaking at the conference myself, but even if I wasn’t, I’d still be going. Registration isn’t open yet, but it’s never too early to mark your calendar.

CNMC Melbourne will start at 1pm sharp on Monday, September 2. It will conclude at 5pm that day and run from 9am-5pm on Tuesday, September 3.

The conference venue has been confirmed as the Cardinal Knox Centre, on the corner of Albert and Lansdowne Sts, next to St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Details to follow.