By Barb Arland-Fye
Last week I completed the sixth and final visit to the geographical regions of the Diocese of Davenport to get input from priests, deacons and other leaders about The Catholic Messenger.
The Catholic Messenger Board of Directors suggested the visits to gain insights about the view of the newspaper from the pulpit and the pew in this constantly changing world of mass communication.
Board member Tim Walch joined me on several visits to share his insights about The Catholic Messenger’s value. “It’s a form of evangelization. The paper, like the pastor, reaches out to the people in the pews. It goes to many households and is an important opportunity to reach Catholics at their kitchen tables. The paper is an important witness to the work and achievements of the church in southeast Iowa.”
Tim also emphasized the importance of The Catholic Messenger as the “document of record” for many of the activities of the church on all levels — international, national and local. “We have an obligation to preserve a record of the present for those Catholics to come in future generations.”
Priests and deacons in the six deaneries, which encompass 22 counties in southeast Iowa, expressed appreciation for The Catholic Messenger. Deacon Bob Glaser of Divine Mercy Parish in Des Moines County, views the newspaper as “an investment in evangelization.” Shirley Van Dee, parish life coordinator for Ss. Joseph & Cabrini Parish, Richland-East Pleasant Plain, said she appreciates coverage of the Vision 20/20 initiative and news about what is going on in the diocese.
Father Jim Betzen, C.PP.S., pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Ottumwa, promotes The Catholic Messenger as adult formation. He suggested publishing articles ahead of feast days to explain their significance.
More photos will enhance the newspaper’s appeal, he said. Father Bill Reynolds, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, made a similar suggestion at the meeting he attended.
The newspaper’s international and national news coverage earns the respect of Father Rudolph Juarez, pastor of St. Patrick Parish-Iowa City, St. Joseph Parish-West Liberty and St. Bernadette Parish-West Branch. “There’s nothing you don’t try to cover,” he said.
Father Steve Ebel, the diocesan vicar for priests, said he appreciates The Catholic Messenger’s coverage of Bishop Thomas Zinkula going out to the peripheries. The stories show “how amazingly active he is and how far he goes.”
Father David Wilkening, pastor of St. Mary Parishes in Marengo and Williamsburg and St. Joseph in North English, looks forward to seeing the publication of church dinners and other events.
“If we didn’t have it, it would be missed,” said Father Paul Appel, the diocese’s judicial vicar and pastor of Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport and St. Peter Parish in Buffalo. The newspaper’s digital archives benefited him in his research for a project and he has noticed that advertising parish events in the paper draws people to those events.
Father Nick Adam, pastor of St. Mary Parish-Fairfield, shared his interest in diversity, in offering viewpoints from both sides of an issue. He suggested emphasizing for readers the necessity of diversity. The newspaper could point out that social justice is part of the Catholic Church’s social doctrine.
Other suggestions at the six meetings included:
• Targeting youths as student reporters.
• Offering a youth section for children ages 6-12.
• Offering a regular feature on people from around the diocese sharing why they read The Catholic Messenger.
• Previews featuring Bishop Zinkula’s insights on the spring and fall U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ meetings.
• Collaboration with Catholic radio stations diocesan wide to air Catholic Messenger Conversations podcasts.
• Consider change of frequency. The Catholic Messenger currently publishes a weekly edition.
The bottom line: The Catholic Messenger informs, educates and inspires the faithful in the Diocese of Davenport through a variety of media platforms. Support from the pulpit and the pew help us to do that.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)