Rev. Darryl Millette is one social media savvy priest. He podcasts his homilies, has over 3,000 followers on Twitter and extends his ministry through a cleverly named blog — Saskapriest.
Millette, 39 is the pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon. He uses Saskapriest to share podcasts, videos and blog posts about the faith. To him, social media is a way to stay connected with his parish outside of the weekly mass.
“The church should be where people are and there are certainly a lot of people on social media,” said Millette. “Pope Francis tells us to go out into the periphery. Online is no longer the periphery, it’s the norm.”
Millette’s family bought their first computer in 1986, when he was eight years old, and he created his first website 10 years later. He was passionate about technology and went on to study computer science and electrical engineering. While attending the University of Saskatchewan, he became involved with the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), a decision which prompted a drastic career change from engineering to ministry.
“When I started university, I got very involved with the CCO and as a result, got deeper and deeper into my faith. When I finished my degree, I decided to work with the CCO for a year. It gave me a lot of time to think, which I hadn’t had while I was studying away at school. I began to feel the call of God in my heart and I entered the seminary a year later.”
Millette entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2002 and was ordained a priest in Saskatoon on July 13, 2007. During this time, he was running a personal website. “I was challenged by a friend to be more intentional with it (the website.) I took that to heart and began recording my homilies, making short videos and blogging about my ministry,” said Millette.
His latest online ministry is a video series appropriately named My Catholic Story, which chronicles parishioners’ faith journeys. The video series is a joint effort between Millette and the administrative assistant for the Diocese of Saskatoon, Sharon Leyne. She finds the sources and interviews them while Millette works behind the scenes — filming, editing footage and posting the videos to both his blog and the archdiocese’s Facebook page.
Millette uses Instagram for photo sharing and Twitter to share snippets of his life in less than 140 characters. Facebook, however, is his online platform of choice.
“It reaches the most people,” said Millette. “There is a pretty even mix of parishioners — we have six elementary schools in the area along with a bunch of seniors homes. There are people from all ages here. Although it’s mostly millennials and young parents who follow my blog and Twitter, I get a surprising amount of feedback from retirees on Facebook.”
Millette encourages other priests to use social media as a tool of ministry.
“It can be a challenge when you’re as busy as we are,” said Millette. “Not everyone has the time or the ability, but most priests still have a parish website or social media accounts run by someone who is hired to do so.”
In addition to online outreach, Millette teams up with his Wheaten terrier, Chloe, to bring joy and comfort to the community.
“Dogs are such wonderful creatures,” said Millette, as Chloe barks in the background. “If I know a family is comfortable with a dog, I will bring her to funeral preparations. She can sense when people are feeling down and her presence helps bring back joy.”
Chloe goes just about everywhere with Millette. Except mass.
“I bring her to parish events, but never to mass. She’d be completely out of control,” he says, laughing.
He also finds sports to be a great way to connect with his community.
“I’m a big fan of the Saskatchewan Roughriders,” said Millette, who enjoys discussing games and predictions with fellow fans after mass. “It’s about reaching people on a human level. Social media is fantastic for making the first step and starting a conversation, be it about faith, sports or something else. But we still need face-to-face interactions for the deeper discussions. You can’t read someone’s facial expressions or hear the tone in their voice in a Tweet.”