Vinal Van Benthem made her debut as a Scripture columnist for The Compass in the Jan. 4, 2013, issue. For the next 10-plus years, her column was part of the “Sunday Readings” page every other week when the paper was published weekly and in every issue since moving to a biweekly format last year. Vinal’s final column was published in the Sept. 22 issue. Sadly, she died on Sept. 20 at age 78.
When Vinal started with The Compass, she was pastoral associate and director of liturgy at St. Raphael the Archangel Parish, Oshkosh. She had previously served at St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Waupaca. In addition to being a Scripture columnist, Vinal was also an author and poet. She was a proud member of the Secular Franciscan Order. Most of our contact over the years was via email, but we did speak by phone at times and our paths crossed once in person. Her messages always included a nice greeting, often a reference to some beauty in nature she recently experienced.
Vinal’s approach to her column was to connect a real-life situation to the messages from the Scripture readings. Some of the workplace and family scenarios she wrote about were shared with her through ministry, she told me. Others were “adapted.” Thank you to Vinal for her contributions to the paper for so many years and for her kindness. She will be missed.
Vinal’s passing, and with the final issue of The Compass approaching at the end of December, led me to reflect about our Scripture columnists over the years. I began overseeing the Sunday Readings page in 1997. It has been a strength of the paper, in my opinion, due to the knowledge and talents of the writers. I see publications from other dioceses, and I would rate Jesuit Fr. Jack Treloar and diocesan Fr. Edward Looney, our current Scripture writers, among the best in the Catholic press.
When I started with The Compass, the late Fr. Richard Ver Bust, then director of the master’s program in theological studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere, and Bishop Robert Morneau were the Scripture columnists. Both were exceptional in helping prepare the faithful for the readings for the upcoming Sunday. Bishop Morneau’s column garnered top honors from the Catholic Press Association in 2004.
In 2009, changes to the Scripture page were implemented. Fr. Mark Vander Steeg started as a columnist. Accompanying the readings column was “Living Rite,” authored by Franciscan Sr. Ann Rehrauer, Mary Johnston and Linda Zahorik. “Living Rite” was designed to help readers prepare for the weekend liturgy by giving them an appreciation for what will be seen and heard at Mass. The column provided a nice balance. In 2013, Pat Wettstein, then director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton, joined The Compass as a “Living Rite” columnist. Patricia Kasten, associate editor, also served in the column’s rotation.
Thanks also goes to Norbertine Fr. Mike Brennan for his stint as a Scripture columnist. His columns were well-received by readers, especially some St. Norbert College grads who provided feedback. Fr. Brennan succeeded Fr. Vander Steeg and preceded Fr. Looney. Syndicated Scripture columns by Fr. Mike Stubbs, Kevin Perrotta, Jem Sullivan and Deacon Greg Kandra provided new perspectives.
Moving forward, a Scripture column will be part of the new weekly e-newsletter, beginning in January.
The funeral Mass for Vinal will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Waupaca. Keep her in your prayers and maybe pull out an old copy of The Compass you may have on hand and read one of her columns one more time. Thank you again, Vinal, for the real-life perspective you brought to the Scriptures for The Compass readers in each of your columns.