Everyone in the parish has noticed the new and improved look of the church bulletin and website over the last several months. Now it is time to meet the dynamic man behind the changes: 19-year-old Max Buondonno.
One day last spring, Max came home from Mass wondering if his social media skills might be of use to the parish. “Facebook. Instagram,” he was thinking. “Something to attract the younger crowd.” So he called Father Michael Rush and found a receptive voice on the other end. As Max soon found out, things would not end there. Asked to attend a meeting of the Communications Ministry, he learned the parish was ready for a new and expanded website. “Well, I could do that,” he said. Within a matter of weeks a robust website was well underway. Then the conversation turned to the church bulletin. How was Max on the production of old-fashioned print media? “Well, I didn’t know the first thing about it,” he said, but at some point, with the urging of his mother, Max came to the conclusion, “Okay, Father, I will do the bulletin. Why not?” After an intensive tutorial with Susan and Bill, the job was his. His first contributions were a new cover design and a restructuring of the content.
What makes Max so adaptable and able to learn? What makes him able to work so well with people of all ages? He credits his schooling—that is, his home schooling and the education he received interacting with customers at his family’s various restaurants. “It was the best possible way to be raised,” he said of himself and his four siblings, who range in age from 14 to 20. “My mother has always been focused on keeping her family tight,” Max said, “and that has been a good thing,” especially after his father died in 2013. “When your life is studying and being with your family, you have more time to manage your studies,” Max explained. A lover of gadgets since childhood, Max learned everything he could about digital technologies. For the last several years, he has been a technology blogger, writing incisive reviews of the latest phones, tablets, software and more. His blog, called Matridox, attracted the attention of the Consumer Technology Association, which sponsored his attendance at its national technology conference in Las Vegas.
Max’s homeschooling included religious study. “My mother always taught us to follow God and trust He will do the right thing for you. It might look haywire right now but things will straighten out,” Max said. After the children’s father died, Max’s mother feared that they would lose their faith. “We all said, no, Mom, our faith has only grown. If you just believe there is a reason for whatever happens, you are set,” he said. The Buondonno family’s roots in St. Damien Parish are deep, even though they moved around a lot during Max’s childhood. A constant has been Fr. Michael Rush, who was with the family on the night Max’s father died. “He has been a blessing to us,” Max said. “I am thrilled to be working for him.”
The speed and substance of the changes that have occurred in parish communications has surprised even Max. “I never thought I would be here,” he said from his perch in front of a bank of screens at the Parish Center. He is grateful for the openness and collegiality that have greeted him and that make innovation possible. He is glad the social media audience grew so quickly, and he is glad that people can find accurate information when they seek it. His communication goals remain straightforward: “Try to make things pretty. Make them colorful. Make them inviting. We push for an open community, a welcoming environment. We want people to know: St. Damien Parish is here.”