The history of The Agora 47 begins with an article for a school newspaper that was never published. Joe Weyers was assigned to write a new website making its rounds through different colleges early in 2004. TheFacebook.com was slowly coming to college campuses, and even though it wasn’t available to Northern Illinois University at the time, his editors thought there may be a story there. Joe researched, borrowed his friend’s password from the University of Illinois who had access, and contacted the TheFacebook.com’s spokesperson, Chris Hughes. The interview with Hughes focused on a guy named Mark Zuckerberg skipping out on a chance of a Harvard degree and having fun in California. Joe was no journalist, and didn’t have the foresight to see the power of social media. The article was short and horrible and for good reason, was never published.
Fast-forward to spring of 2012, and Joe, now a 7 year user of Facebook was recognizing the benefits of social media use in his role as a Youth Minister at a local parish. He knew that this was a great way to share the events of the Church, and give the parish an online personality to those parishioners that were spending time online. But his lack of foresight impacted the full vision as he established the first parish social media plan. It was about communicating, not ministry.
In August of 2013, tragedy struck Joe and he shared his pain and sorrow online. There was great support he felt through Facebook and Twitter from friends and acquaintances. Even a Bishop tweeted to him offering up his prayers. Once Joe could reflect on those few days and the power these people had, Joe realized that social media was not just a marketing tool, but had a great ministerial purpose.
He began researching this idea more and more, turning it into his thesis for his Master’s of Divinity project. He proposed an idea to his friend who ran a ministry focusing on digital media about sharing more through social media and was hired as a social media consultant and writer. A few months later, he was consulting with another organization to manage their networks. It was out of these experiences that the idea for The Agora 47 was born.
Since July of 2015, The Agora 47 has provided social media content, management and training for Catholic parishes, schools, dioceses, apostolates or ministries. Their content comes from Bishops, Saints, the Magisterium, or our Holy Father. The entire goal is to make a little more of what is regularly shared in the online world authentically Catholic.