The Catholic Standard & Times has been reporting the news of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia for 117 years. Today the paper announced it is folding, effective immediately, as part of a painful financial restructuring of the archdiocese. The details are here; many programs are gone or remanded to more local control, offices are shuttering or coalescing. And more than forty people have lost their jobs.
I hurt for those who have lost their jobs. I pray fiercely for their well-being and the well-being of their families.
The paper is not a person, but I will mourn its demise nonetheless. This is the newsroom that the late legendary Cardinal Foley inhabited, his desk — complete with a pull-out table on the front perfectly sized to hold a copy of the paper for perusal by the editor and a guest — is still used by the current editor. Fr. Paul Quinter, who taught me not only moral theology and bioethics in graduate school, but also how to write an op-ed piece (and published my first one in the Standard) ably shepherded the paper until he landed in Rome to edit the English language version of L'osservatore Romano.
I began writing regularly about prayer and spirituality for the Standard just after Easter 2008, (my first column is here), invited by the managing editor and the auxiliary bishop whose office oversaw the paper (another former professor from my graduate school days). I'd been writing on the blog for four years and in a few other venues, but more than anything else it was writing these weekly columns that helped me find my voice as a writer. My editors Matt, Sabrina and Elena polished my prose and patiently taught me everything I know about how a small newspaper works (which is not much, but far more than I knew when I started). Msgr. Fran Meehan encouraged me to keep writing from the only perspective I had - of faithful lay person, wife and mother, reminding me that each of us brings something unique to to the table from our experience of God and that the gift of sharing it was not meant to be tucked under a bushel.
Too, the columns were a way for me to struggle with living faithfully, prayerfully and contemplatively in a space inhabited by teens, hamsters, cats, students, and a husband. As one of my Jesuit friends says, "first we preach to ourselves."
It's too soon to know quite what will happen with the online presence of the paper, or with Phaith magazine (currently on hold). I write in other spaces these days, and God willing, will continue to do so, but I will miss seeing the masthead of the paper sticking out of my mailbox, its physical presence a reminder of the deeper realities of how the Word becomes flesh in our lives, and the discipline of the regular writing for them.
And if you can, please pray, as I am, for those who are suddenly unemployed, and for all those served by ministries and office that have vanished or shrunk.