Pages from earlier editions of the Catholic News, recently included in current editions of the paper, give an insight into the changed readership of the paper over the years. This may be due in part to the profound changes in the society over the 125 years – changes in literacy, self-awareness and sense of a place and a voice within the Church.
As the paper tried to respond to these changes and to create a Catholic sensibility in a society that was trying to harness the forces of secularism with those of a pervasive religiosity, there were some high points.
The popularisation of Biblical scholarship, the Know Your Faith series, the Ask me Another of Archbishop Pantin and subsequent Shepherd’s Corner, as well as the very popular Nick’s Corner were moments when the paper seemed most clearly to fulfil its mandate.
The pull outs on various topics catechetical, biblical, theological and liturgical provided quality education in an accessible format. Various constituencies were recognised and catered for, the youth, those with various challenges – the work with the deaf community was a striking example of the catholic outreach in a good sense.
There have also been attempts to engage discussion on subjects that caught the popular attention – the death penalty, La Divina Pastora and artificial contraception are perennial topics.
And there were aspects of life and behaviour that elicited a courageous and counter-cultural challenge that was often met with ridicule or resignation – the decline of artistry and plain decency that plague our celebration of Carnival, the conduct of national politics, the ethics of the workplace in a time of economic stringency.
But on the whole, deep questioning of the values and habits of our society in the light of the Gospel remains a focus that – with the help of our contributors – needs to be fully explored.
The Church has always provided a beacon and an anchor for society, even when she has been most vociferously challenged. As we in the Catholic News launch into another period of service, perhaps we could fulfil our mandate to educate, evangelise and share the Gospel more effectively by seeking to make the paper a place where Faith searches for understanding, where the violence and hardness of our usual conversations are mellowed by the Charity which she brings into all things; where the Tolerance that is one of our watchwords can allow for the exercise of authentic liberty as we undertake together a quest for Truth.
Ad multos annos!