The latest government shutdown ultimately led one Phoenix Catholic to the Vatican — and turned lemons into lemonade. As such, the majority of the social media posts you see through early May from EWTN Vatican on Twitter and EWTN Vatican on Instagram will likely be the work of that young and faithful Phoenix Catholic.
Ella Sullivan, a junior at University of Dallas with firm Phoenix roots as a St. Gregory parishioner and alumna, St. Mary’s High School alumna and Christian Service Award recipient through the Catholic Community Foundation (pictured here in eighth grade to the left of Bishop Olmsted), planned to spend the spring as a U.S. Embassy to the Holy See intern. The politics/economics major only needed security clearance for the final green light.
The government shut down halted that, and because of the foreign travel in her history, the process saw more of a yellow light once the shutdown ended. Sullivan’s case ultimately closed without a decision. Since she already had the semester off, Sullivan put feelers out to see how she might be of service in Vatican City. Her own semester in Rome from Fall 2017 plus a cousin studying there through Christendom and a fellow St. Mary’s alum at University of Notre Dame’s Rome campus left some connections.
Msgr. Thomas Fucinaro, chaplain for University of Dallas in Rome, became her key one. Shortly after the chaplain checked in with some contacts, an email response from EWTN at the Vatican essentially said, “This is a godsend. We’ve been looking for someone to do an internship for us.”
Sullivan will be a 10-minute walk from St. Peter’s Square and plans to further grow EWTN Vatican’s social media outreach. She began supporting it remotely from Phoenix and then Dallas earlier this month and already saw 200 more followers on Twitter and 600 more on Instagram.
Her overall goal is to increase the social media following across platforms and change typical lingo from “Oh, my grandma watches EWTN” to “Oh, I watch/follow EWTN!” She already made a shareable graphic for her university president and all local dioceses to use if they want to invite their students, readers and followers to connect electronically with the Vatican.
“Now the articles I’m posting about are ones I would have been reading anyway,” said Sullivan, a self-proclaimed news junkie, particularly regarding politics and theology. “The universality of it is so attractive.”
A side bonus to her internship will be training representatives from places like Africa, the Philippines and Asia about managing social media accounts as those parts of the world see a growth in Internet access.