February is Catholic Press Month in the United States. According to the Catholic Press Association, there are currently 125 Catholic newspapers in the United States and Canada, as well as 82 Catholic magazines.
To work for a Catholic publication means, as Pope Francis said on Dec. 16, 2017, to listen to the local church, live close to the people, and “above all to interpret events in the light of the Gospel and the teaching of the church. These elements are the ‘compass’ of its particular way of doing journalism, of reporting the news and expressing opinions.”
The pope was addressing members of the Italian Periodical Press Union and the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies. But his words reflect what the Catholic press does worldwide.
In 1822, the first Catholic newspaper was founded in our country. Bishop John England, himself an editor who had migrated to the U.S. from Ireland, started The Catholic Miscellany in Charleston, S.C.
He explained his intent in starting a Catholic newspaper this way: “Amongst the various wants of the Catholics of these states I do not know of a greater temporal (one) than a weekly paper, the principle scope of which will be fair and simple statements of Catholic doctrine from authentic documents, plain and inoffensively exhibited, refutation of calumnies, examination and illustration of misrepresented facts of history, biographies of eminent ecclesiastics and others connected with the church, reviews of books for and against Catholicity, events connected with religion in all parts of the world.”
Today, Catholic newspapers across the county continue to do just that.
The first Catholic Press Month was held nearly a century ago, in 1921. It was started to be “an active campaign for an enlarged circulation and a greater support of Catholic newspapers and periodicals.” According to the Catholic Historical Review of that year: “Every member of the American hierarchy endorsed the campaign and the clergy entered into it heart and soul.”
The Catholic press today partners with bishops, pastors, parish leaders, teachers and religious educators to share the stories of faith, explain the teachings of the church and — most of all — help people develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Last June, The Compass and the Diocese of Green Bay hosted the Catholic Media Convention. More than 300 professional journalists, writers, editors and social media coordinators from as far away as Germany came to “the Frozen Tundra.” They shared their own stories of how “above all, to interpret events in the light of the Gospel.”
Each showed admirable dedication and humility to their vocation. Despite many people today who may believe that media’s only intent is to sensationalize, even to the point of sacrificing truth, each of these Catholic journalists and social media personnel belied that notion. Here are just three of the truth-filled articles that won awards from the CPA in June: “The Opioid Epidemic — A Catholic Perspective” (CatholicPhilly.com); “Human Trafficking” (The Leaven, Kansas City, Kan.); and “Transgender Ideology and the Church” (The Catholic Spirit, St. Paul, Minn.).
These journalists believe, as Pope Francis said of their Italian counterparts, that their call is to “inform correctly (and) to offer everyone a reporting of the facts that conform as closely as possible to reality.”
As we mark Catholic Press Month, we echo Pope Francis’ request when he addressed those Italian journalists: “For all these reasons, it is, therefore, desirable that everyone’s commitment to ensuring the existence and vitality of these periodicals is not lacking.”
We at The Compass thank all of you who indeed show that kind of commitment to the Catholic press.