From a Spiritual to a Virtual Place … And Back

The campus is picturesque, the open space rather serene, the autumnal beauties quite evident.  At the crossroads to the metropolitan mainline, Overbrook stands as a 75-acre oasis … an ideal location in which to undertake significant spiritual formation.

399192_495502183814484_1038591185_nSince 1838, Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary has served as a place to train future priests for the Church.  Nearly 175 years later, it’s still a peaceful spot, even with the expansion of the city surrounding it. But it’s no longer just a holy habitat.  With the rapid development and technological advances that mark today’s world of new media, the spiritual place is also becoming a virtual place.

That transposition is evident with the launch this week of the seminary’s new website (  This digital domain now welcomes virtual visitors to a place that is both intellectual and spiritual, a space for learning that encompasses the mind and the soul.

There’s a practical dimension to developing a website that is indispensable in our world.  While redesigning a site entails countless hours of tedious work, and keeping it up-to-date even more staff time, this labor is no longer a luxury since life today is lived more and more online.

As a marketing and communications tool, a website provides for those seeking to know more.  Through its creatively designed layout, its inclusion of images, and its navigability, the website appeals to visitors to “come and see” without needing to move beyond a computer screen.  Its content – whether in print or audio-visual format – serves as both a public relations instrument and as a repository of knowledge and information.  The website opens the door of what may seem like a place of seclusion to any and all who wish to enter through its portals.

But beyond the practical and, by contemporary standards, necessary aspects of hosting a website, adoption of this digital medium also has a significant cultural dimension.  It affects how we communicate.  We think in bullet points more than paragraphs.  We learn more through links than through speeches.  We understand by way of seeing images more so than by reading texts.  Nowadays, to click is to connect.

In this way, the digital domain becomes even more so the place of encounter.  Obviously different from actually setting foot on the campus, a virtual visit still makes it possible to connect with those who reside there.  From photo tours to personal testimonials, the well-constructed cyber-place can make the reality come to life.  And though there may not be a transmission of actual grace through the fiber-optic lines (since the sacramental always involves the physical), nevertheless beauty can be revealed and rediscovered online.  For the contemporary transmission of the faith, this medium amplifies the Church’s evangelizing mission beyond the borders of the property.

FH 10As such, the seminary’s new website is far more than a technological tool.  It creates an ambience that says “welcome to our world.”  What you discover there, one hopes, is an environment that responds to the fundamentally human desire for interacting with others, including the human-divine relationship.  When it does that, the virtual place, in turn, becomes a spiritual one.

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