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Thursday, 10 May 2012 06:20

MaryMediatrix Got a Face Lift

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After several weeks of intensive internet work, we finally finished the newly revised MaryMediatrix.com, the official site of the Franciscans of the Immaculate in the United States. Some of our regular visitors to the site may not be aware that MaryMediatrix.com was the first internet site of our Institute in the world which was launched in 1996. It was known then, as the Homepage of the Immaculate.

History of the site

In the late 1995, the very first site, made only of simple HTML pages, was designed to help solicit funds for the construction of the seminary in Griswold, CT. In 1996, it was launched under the new domain name MaryMediatrix.com courtesy of the generous anynomous benefactor from New Jersey who sponsored to pay the bills of the server and the domain name registration. "MaryMediatrix.com" domain name was chosen not just to underscore the unique charism of the Institute of the Franciscans of the Immaculate which promotes this mystery. The site's original mission is primarily to serve as a source of grace through Marian evangelization to souls. Hence, in its initial development, pages like Marian library and online discussion forum were added to regular pages on the relgious life and charism of the Franciscans of the Immaculate

The year 1997 was the debut of our online Academy of the Immaculate Bookstore. Initially programmed to accept orders based on a cgi or perl scripts combination and in a simple manual shipping calculation, the online bookstore's first payment gateway was just a check payment.

Technology has developed since then in such a rapid pace that internet sites are becoming more and more sophisticated. In the beginning of 2000, MaryMediatrix.com has been accessed by several people in the world, becoming even an agent of getting religious vocations from the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and even as far as South Africa, for the religious institute of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, both friars and sisters. Its simple pages on the Third Order has given opportunity for so many in the United States to join it even as far as California, Texas, Michigan, etc. -- all these through the use of now deprecated HTML coding within the page both for content and templates.

CMS and Joomla

MaryMediatrix came a bit late in the use of Content Management System (CMS). In practice, sites with CMS separates the content from the template and employ a powerful database such as SQL or MySql or even Window-based database and the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS). The former keeps the content while the latter provides a site-wide consistency of layout by the use of single or multiple CSS files. The use of these databases facilitates updating of template easily while presented in varying "themes" or "skin."

God assumed everything that is human so that humanity can be divinized, and henceforth, humanity becomes, in Christ, an essential agent in the divinization of men. Analogously, codes, pixels and syntaxes are just mere inert elements in the cyberspace, but when they become instruments of Faith, they serve to inspire.

Joomla was the very first Content Management System employed by MaryMediatrix.com. The choice is not just its user-friendly approach to site management, but it is also free or "Open Source"-- a Franciscan standard of "doing business." The current site is still build upon this great CMS.

What's New in the site

These are some of the changes made since the last major revision of the site in 2007:

On the Bookstore

  • The bookstore has changed from one system to the most versatile ecommerce system used even by major online stores like Lenovo computers, OfficeMax, etc. From a simple to use Joomla e-commerce component, our new site move on a fully dedicated CMS OpenSource Ecommerce known as Magento.
  • The user-friendly clean layout makes one be focused on product contents and it's features.
  • The introduction of the "Amazon-like" preview-the-item system. Most of the books in the preview tab of the item, once clicked, will pop-up a life-like experience of reading and turning pages of some sample contents of the book to give customers opportunity to read their contents. Similar to this preview is the possibility of listening to sample mp3 sound clips for Music CDs.
  • click me to view
  • Customers' dashboard, once logged in, permit the customers to preview the history of their purchase, their account information as well as possibility to track the status of their orders. They can also participate in the site by writing reviews as well as subscribing to Academy Bookstore Newsletter. All these within a secured socket layer (SSL) that guarantee the customers' peace of mind.
  • All these have been added to provide a maximum user-friendly experience to our customers.

Missio Immaculatae Magazine

Our Marian and missionary magazine Missio Immaculatae International (Mission of the Immaculate International) began to have its online presence in 2009 primarily to promote the printed magazine for possible subscribers but also to make available past articles that would be of interest for people in the cyberworld.

The present site accomplished further than its version three years ago. One can possibly access some previous issues in their complete editions in an interface that is life-like, that is the possibility of turning/flipping those pages; but it does more: they can be printed, bookmarked, send via email and even dropping some notes via facebook and twitter. Subscription rates are much reduced. Certainly, we can always make use of additional donations on a publication depending only on Divine Providence of God.

Multimedia Elements

Seeing the sweep encounter between the media and internet world that boundaries are becoming obscured in today's technology, MaryMediatrix.com, faithful to its mission of "bringing the Immaculate to the world" conjoined forces with its other US websites of the Franiscans of the Immaculate to deliver messages to high tech audience. AirMaria.com and RadioCormariae.com constantly produce multimedia materials by way of short videos (former) and the streaming radio broadcast (latter). MaryMediatrix pulls those resources into one site to establish a one-place portal of resources of evangelization and formation. This diminishes site visitors to do more clicking than they should.

Going Mobile and Beyond

The deceased founder of Apple Company, Steve Jobs, said that we are in a "post-computer age" when he launched in 2007 the iPhone and followed later on by iPad. Several companies followed his footsteps in producing tablets so much so that mobility becomes a spoused concept with computing; access to information are increasingly becoming mobile

Having professed the principle of St. Maximilian Kolbe, that we should use "every licit and modern means" to spread Marian evangelization, MaryMediatrix can now be accessed on mobile devices such as iPhone and Ipad as well as any devices with Android OSes. Other mobile operating systems are also supported as well. Thanks to the universal coding system made by JQuery Mobile.

Conclusion

What can we make of all these technical jargon in a predominantly religious website as MaryMediatrix.com? Such question implies, not so often, a shadow of dualism. Being a relgious website in a highly technology-coded site is a paradigm of the mystery of Incarnation-- God assumed everything that is human so that humanity can be divinized, and henceforth, the humanity in Christ, becomes an essential agent in the divinization. Analogously, codes, pixels and syntaxes are just mere inert elements in the cyberspace, but when they become instruments of Faith, they serve to inspire. That is what we hope to accomplish in MaryMediatrix.com. Ave Maria!

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