From the beginning days of our nation, the Church recognized the need to educate people in the Catholic faith and bring the news about the faith and the Church into the home. Bishop John England, an experienced editor who migrated from Ireland, initially used the secular press to explain our Catholic faith but soon realized he needed his own vehicle to address misrepresentations of the faith and form the minds of Catholics. He started the first Catholic diocesan paper, the Catholic Miscellany, in 1822 in Charleston, SC.
Although all bishops did not immediately establish diocesan newspapers, by 1884 bishops recommended that each Catholic household receive at least one Catholic periodical of good repute. In 1911, representatives from Catholic newspapers in the United States and Canada met in Columbus, Ohio, for their first national meeting. This new Catholic Press Association aimed to keep the public informed on Catholic happenings of vital interest.
In our diocese, Catholic lay leaders, realizing the importance of a Catholic newspaper, founded The Catholic Sun in 1892, a few years after the founding of the diocese. For many years, it was privately owned. Bishop Joseph O’Keefe, eighth Bishop of Syracuse, purchased the paper for the diocese and became its publisher.
Catholic publications and electronic media invite readers to delve into their faith. They help to remind us that through our Baptism we belong to Christ and that this should affect all we do. Through words and pictures, they enhance our knowledge about our faith, and the world in which we live and in which we are called to practice our faith. They present the Catholic world-view that enlightens our minds, broadens our perspective and challenges us to be committed disciples of Jesus.
The Catholic Sun, published 44 times year, reaches over 15,000 faithful in our diocese. It is a vital means of communication and evangelization for the people of Syracuse. It keeps us abreast of what is happening in our Church locally, nationally, and internationally. It has an important place in forming Christian consciences and reflecting the Church’s viewpoint on contemporary issues. Benedict XVI, speaking to journalists in 2010, noted that the foremost task of the Catholic newspaper is giving “voice to a point of view that reflects Catholic thinking on all ethical and social questions.”
Recent years have seen many advances in the field of communication. Facebook, tweeting short messages, emails, cell phone communication, and multiple sites are vehicles of communication that inform us, affect our opinions and ultimately our decisions and relationships with others. The Catholic Sun has kept up with the times. It is a multiple media entity. Even your bishop, whose first preference is to hold a newspaper in hand and leisurely read it, tweets!
Pope Francis recently stated, “Ever since the internet first became available, the Church has always sought to promote its use in the service of the encounter between persons, and of solidarity among all. I would like to invite you once again to reflect on the foundation and importance of our being-in-relationship and to rediscover, the vast array of challenges of the current communications context, the desire of the human person who does not want to be left isolated and alone” (Message, 53rd World Communication Day, January 24, 2019).
While the Holy Father’s message for World Communication Day reflects on the dangers posed by the social network, e.g. manipulation of personal data, episodes of cyberbullying, unbridled individualism that sometimes foments hatred, and the dangerous reality of young people becoming “social hermits” who are alienated from society, his message also gives us a beautiful image of social media’s power to draw people together.
“The use of the social web is complementary to an encounter in the flesh that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other. If the Net is used as an extension or expectation of such an encounter, then the network concept is not betrayed and remains a resource for communion. If a family uses the Net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other’s eyes, then it is a resource. If a Church community coordinates its activity through the network, and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource. If the Net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us, in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource.”
Our Catholic Sun and social media can help us to grow as “missionary disciples” committed to our faith and ready to go forth and share it with others. May all forms of communication, which we use and promote in our diocese, strengthen our connection with one another and all God’s holy people. May we keep in mind that the Church herself “is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on ‘likes,’ but on the truth of the ‘Amen,’ by which each one clings to the Body of Christ, and welcomes others” (Pope Francis, January 24, 2019).
February is Catholic Press Month. I hope you will renew your subscription to The Catholic Sun and perhaps even give a subscription as a gift to a person in your life who you feel would benefit from reading our diocesan newspaper.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, NY 13202.