The Virtual Disciple

How can Catholic schools harness technology in a way to connect to other members of the Body of Christ?

By Marianne Green

“What do I do so that others might share in Christian life? Am I generous in my faith or am I closed?”  Pope Francis proposed these questions during his General Audience on September 11, 2013. These questions would ruminate within my own mind during this past Easter season when Fr. Horacio Cabaña, the pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Hafnarfjodur, Iceland, proposed that I join the team leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in October. My response set a course for a New Evangelization project entitled the Virtual Disciple for schools within the Archdiocese of Washington.

Over the course of my Catholic teaching career, I have learned that when one says “yes” to a new professional experience, then that means that he or she needs to embrace the mystery of that new path. God reveals it moment to moment, and He builds one’s understanding of real trust.

Embracing this mystery requires prayer and trust in His learning process. It means answering the call to encounter God and neighbor in new ways, to go beyond a personal comfort zone. This level of trust has never been easy for me, and many of my former students know this fact.

I have always marveled at the dynamism of Catholic speakers like Chris Stefanik of Real Life Catholic. Their passion for the evangelizing the Gospel message through various media inspires me. As a teacher, I have always wondered how Catholic schools can harness technology in a way to connect to other members of the Body of Christ such as foreign missionaries.

What if Catholic schools not only in American dioceses, but also in foreign dioceses could exchange ideas, learn prayers in different languages, and have students understand their missionary calling in safe but more dynamic ways?

Thankfully, the Archdiocese of Washington’s Director for Educational Technology Shannon Norris and the Associate Superintendent for Catholic Identity and Accreditation Laura Roland helped me in presenting this Virtual Disciple Project to interested schools such as the Mother of God School in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Our digital age does allow for these types of engaging interactions using technology such as Skype, Instagram, and YouTube. The Virtual Disciple Project will be one such New Evangelization program allowing teachers and students to learn about effective online postings, to pray the Sign of the Cross and Hail Mary in Icelandic, and to present lessons while on this Holy Land pilgrimage.

Answering the call to be open to God’s greater mystery asks this veteran Catholic teacher to take a risk “to bring Christ to all people” and to encounter new teaching pathways for Catholic students to understand their own missionary spirits and to be generous with their own experiences.

"Virtual disciples"

Copyright 2017 Rizza Fay Eliasdottir. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


At the end of September and into October, I will travel to mission communities in Iceland and the Holy Land. I will communicate with Catholic schools in the United States during this missionary experience via Skype, Instagram, and YouTube. The purpose of these virtual exchanges is to demonstrate the living Body of Christ to students through interactive lessons and to illustrate the missionary spirit that Pope Francis mentions so often in his papal writings. Participants in this Virtual Disciple program will learn the Hail Mary in Icelandic as well as have the options to follow the Iceland and Holy Land lessons posted via these media sites.

Marianne Green has been educating Catholic students in K-12 schools for the past 16 years and has collaborated on programming with the Institute of the Incarnate Word’s mission in Hafnarfjöđur, Iceland. She currently works as an independent consultant for the Catholic Apostolate Center in Washington, DC. She strives to help students live their missionary calling through the Ignatian philosophy of “seeing God in all things.”