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The essential Catholic press

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Every February, we celebrate Catholic Press Month as designated by the Catholic Media Association, which just changed its name from Catholic Press Association.

The Catholic press is more essential than ever because we tell the stories of the church, local and global, that are often overlooked by the mainstream press. Catholic journalists and editors offer expertise in the subject matter and provide the context readers desire.

Never has the mission of the Catholic press been more central to our work at the Catholic Herald than this past tumultuous year.

This time last year we were bidding farewell to our longtime Editor Mike Flach. (And the diocese just hired an executive editor of content, Kevin Schweers, who we’ll introduce next issue.) Two weeks later, I was scrambling to set up our virtual newsroom and entire business operations from multiple locations

Never missing a beat, the Catholic Herald staff will tell you it’s been business as usual — in times that are far from usual. Teleworking, events being canceled or going virtual, Zoom staff meetings, revamped workflows and more kept us on our toes. We’re up to the challenge.

You’ve been receiving the biweekly newspaper and checking out our website and weekly e-newsletter, tuning in to our podcasts, watching our videos and engaging with us on our social media platforms

Advertising continues to bring subscribers connections to local reputable businesses and nonprofits with a long track record of service, as well as providing a forum for advertisers to reach their target audience.

Circulation is maintaining the subscriber list that doubled when we went biweekly in September 2019, sending papers in bulk to diocesan parishes and schools, and they are there to assist with address changes or requests for extra copies. The newspaper boxes along the Metro lines have been filled throughout the year.

Diocesan events, in whatever form they take, are being covered. We are on top of Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s extensive schedule and the stories of the diocese are being told.

As the pandemic revved up, we brought you stories of parish food drives, drive-thru confessions, outdoor expositions of the Blessed Sacrament, how pastors were making accommodations for pandemic safety guidelines, etc. And then, we put a face on COVID-19. We brought you the personal, heartbreaking stories of the victims — those who lost their fight with the virus and those who survived — and their families and communities.

This year will never be forgotten. We went through all of this alongside you. We’ve heard from many of you throughout the year. Some asked how they could help the victims, the people brave enough to share their stories.

Some wrote expressing how much they appreciated the Catholic Herald keeping them connected in an isolating time.

Know that we will continue in our mission "to evangelize by providing news from a Catholic perspective. We inform, inspire and connect Catholics by sharing the faith story of the Arlington Diocese." One of my favorite quotes about the Catholic press goes back to Cardinal John Foley, an icon of our industry who started his career as editor of Philadelphia’s Catholic Standard and Times, and later served as president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was the voice of the Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s for years.

We lost him in 2011.

"A Catholic publication on the coffee table or magazine rack is an excellent reminder, for ourselves and our visitors, of our Catholic identity. Like the crucifix above the bed in every Catholic home, a Catholic publication in the living room or family room is a continuing reminder of our identity as Catholics," he said.

The Catholic Herald sits on many a coffee table at 116,000 subscribers’ homes. We hope it’s on yours. But we also pop up on iPads and mobile phones, and the laptop or desktop computer well beyond the footprint of the Arlington diocese.

Earlier this month, representatives from Catholic News Service met with Pope Francis as the service celebrated 100 years. Their coverage of that meeting has been called marching orders for the Catholic press.

"We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home," Pope Francis said in his written message for the occasion.

At a time of increased division, U.S. Catholic journalists should promote unity in diversity that beats with "one heart" and "try to get people to talk to each other, reason together and seek the path of fraternity." A Catholic communications professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome analyzed all of Pope Francis’ speeches and messages to reporters and communicators.

CNS quotes Giovanni Tridenti as saying that he’s boiled it down to three virtues: People in the media are called to "go out," "listen" and "care for." Know that we are going out, listening and caring for our Catholic community. We appreciate your support and your feedback. We are always glad to hear from you in good times and in bad, and especially during "our month" and beyond.

Augherton can be reached at aaugherton@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021