When I was a young kid, I remember seeing a sign on a local highway that read: “Please slow down. Highway coming to an end.” Indeed, endings are a time to slow down. And yet, endings are not always easy because they can engender a whole host of feelings, the greatest of which is perhaps sadness.
For example, think of the end of a sports game – especially if we are on the losing end. There is also the end of businesses. I remember vividly how painful it was for my dad, whose place of employment closed. Dad was a butcher for Thorofare Markets whose warehouse – ironically enough – was on Meridian Road in Youngstown. During our lifetimes, we witness many endings.
This issue marks the final one for The Catholic Exponent. For nearly 80 years, this publication has sought to truthfully and accurately bring you the news of the faith as it is lived out in Northeastern Ohio. As we mark this ending, it is important that we slow down and look back through the rearview mirror at a resource that has served this diocese so well.
Imagine how many words, stories, deadlines, photos, hours and trees went into this effort. No doubt there is a forest of information containing a richness in faith, but it is even deeper than this, for there have been many people who have contributed to this operation – from editors and writers to photographers, proofreaders, graphic designers, salespersons, advertisers and clerks. Let’s not forget those who have printed the issues or the mail carriers who brought it to your homes. “It takes a village,” as they say.
As we mark this ending, I want to offer my heartfelt gratitude to the many people who have made this newspaper a successful source of information. In particular, I salute the current staff who are bringing this newspaper to you for the last time – Pete Sheehan, Annetta Sweetko, Karen Mason, Dana Nicholson, Brenda Gustovich, Carole Vlosich, Elaine Soos and Tom Anderson, plus The Exponent’s team of dedicated freelance photographers and writers.
One of my favorite images in life is the rearview mirror, which enables us to look back at what is behind us. There is a sacred beauty in this exercise – not to mention a security that grips us and sometimes makes us hold on to what has happened which is comfortable and familiar – but the rearview is much smaller than the front windshield. The best is yet to be!
This ending is all about us as a Church seeking to be adaptable and to reach as many Catholics as possible. For example, under the current model only a third of our parishioner households were receiving this newspaper. In order to canvass a wider reach, we – like many archdioceses and dioceses before us – are transitioning to a 10-times-a-year magazine called The Catholic Echo, which will reach all of our parishioners, in the hopes of inviting people into a deeper relationship with Jesus and the Church.
This change comes at a time when, in “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis is inviting us to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ. He writes: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them.” (#3)
Concomitantly, this change occurs when, in the same document, the Holy Father dreams of a Church that looks more intentionally at herself and the way she does things in the hopes of more successfully proclaiming the joy of the Gospel to the farthest corners of the world. He writes: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures, can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (#27)
At the heart of the Holy Father’s dream is a strong conviction that the Church as we know it cannot be about maintenance, but mission. The Church does not exist for herself, but for the proclamation of the Gospel. This Gospel can be life-giving and life changing.
If there is a lesson in this transition for all of us, it is that our lives as disciples in the Church must always be open to change. Things cannot remain the same. We cannot stay the same. We need to change and grow for the good of the Church. In other words, we need to till the soil of our hearts and ministries so that we can be fruitful for God and his glory.
Jesus says: “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” (John 15:5) As branches on the one vine, we must bear fruit. This transition is all about bearing fruit for the Church in this portion of the Lord’s vineyard.
Perhaps the most compelling lesson in this change is something we all too easily forget – namely – that with every ending there is a new beginning. Please join me in anticipating this new beginning with the first publication of The Catholic Echo which will arrive in your home in late spring.
In the meantime, know that you can stay connected to all that is happening in our part of the Church by visiting our new website regularly at www.CatholicEcho.org.
I wish to conclude my final Exponent column with words that were on a banner in a chapel where I did my canonical retreat for priesthood. They are words I have never forgotten. “For all that has been, Thanks! For all that will be, Yes!”