Restoration

Restoration

Posted July 31, 2012:
Working for Our Lady’s Newspaper

by Paulette Curran.

On the very first day I began training to become editor of this newspaper, Denis Lemieux, who was editor then (that’s before he became a priest), told me one of the most important things I needed to know for my new assignment. And he told it to me even before we got to the office.

As we walked together on our way, he led me along the path that detours to the statue of Our Lady of Combermere.

"I stop here every morning," he told me, "and ask for her help. Just remember, it’s her paper. She has to take care of it."

I, too, visit her statue every day on my way to work, and during the twelve years that I have worked for this newspaper, I have experienced over and over the truth of what I was told. Let me tell you some of the ways Our Lady takes care of Restoration—and some stories.

Sometimes, for example, the subject and especially the timing of a particular article is amazing.

The clearest example of this is one of Fr. Pat McNulty’s articles. On September 9, 2001, he handed in an article for the November paper—an article about innocent suffering caused by evil. Two days later, planes attacked the World Trade Center in New York City.

Then there are the times when a particular issue of the paper really needs some specific thing that I can see no way of getting.

The January 2001 issue was a powerful one about our house in Magadan, Russia, but even more about the nearby prison camps that had been administered in Magadan in Communist times.

My deadline for that issue was very near, and the paper was ready to go to layout except for one thing. We had no illustration for the front page.

I was in archives and had looked at every photo we had from our house in Magadan. I had found nothing, but nothing, that would work for the front page.

"Is that everything you have?" I asked Bonnie Staib, the archivist at the time. "Yes," she answered.

I started to pray. I hadn’t even finished my prayer when Bonnie said, "Oh yes, I just remembered. We put together a poster for an event at the house a while back. There were some photos on it. Would you like to see it?"

"Yes!"

She went and got it, and there on that poster was a photograph of some men putting up a cross at a memorial service at one of the camps. It was perfect for the front page.

I mentioned the attack on the World Trade Center in connection with Fr. Pat’s article. That whole issue, November 2001, has an interesting story.

When those attacks happened, I had been working on an issue on sexuality.

I was a relatively new editor at the time, and when I finally clued in that we would have to put something in the paper about the attack on the World Trade Center, it became immediately apparent that the material I had been working on would not do for the next issue.

So I now had two weeks, half the normal schedule, to get out an entirely different paper.

What to do? First, I asked to be taken off my other jobs so that I could focus completely on Restoration.

But then, what material did I have? We were far from New York, and what material could I possibly get about an event that was saturating the media and that our readers would only receive over a month later? And who would write it?

Well, I did have two articles. On the day of the attack, we had read together something Catherine Doherty had written at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, something on how to respond to a national crisis. That would certainly work. And there was Fr. Pat’s article on innocent suffering.

I did the work needed for those two articles, and then, as soon as I had finished, another idea came to me. Washington, too, had been attacked. I could ask our house there for an account of their day on September 11th.

And that’s the way that whole issue went. I would get one idea, get the work on it done, and as soon as it was finished, and not before, another idea would come to me. Some of the material was in the files, some of it something on related subjects.

Though I hadn’t planned on a whole issue on 9/11 and related subjects, that’s what we ended up with.

And we got feedback from someone right at Ground Zero. One of my cousins, who worked on the clean-up, said that Catherine’s article about responding to a national disaster really spoke to him.

(We used the material on sexuality for the January issue.)

People often ask me how I choose the themes for an issue. The fact is that, most of the time, I don’t. I pray and ask Our Lady what she wants.

Most of the time what happens is that over a period of time, I’ll get two or three articles on a subject or perhaps one strong article, and the paper grows around those.

Other times, a theme seems obvious. And every once in a while, I think the paper will be about a certain subject, but then Our Lady moves it in another direction entirely.

Some of you will probably remember the issue on priesthood in February 2010. I had never planned to make that an issue on priesthood. I was working on a Lenten issue.

But in accordance with the Year of the Priest, Fr. David May had written an article about St. John Vianney, patron of priests. And one of our associate priests, Fr. Mark Mitchell, had written something about the associate priests in Michigan, where he lives.

Fr. Kieran Kilcommons, from our house in the Yukon, had written a newsletter including information about his work traveling around saying Sunday Masses in isolated native villages.

There were also a couple of articles in the files that caught my eye—articles connected with priesthood in one way or another. But sometimes I’m a bit slow, and I was still plugging along looking for things connected with Lent.

The issue was not fitting together well, and I still didn’t have a lead article.

Then one day at least two weeks into the issue I was working on, I looked at all the articles and it hit me: "I wonder if this issue is supposed to be about priesthood."

Immediately, it’s like the whole issue came together in my mind, and immediately I knew that Catherine’s Holy Thursday talk on the priesthood was meant to be the lead article.

Suddenly, with just the smallest of adjustments, we had an issue on priesthood.

I didn’t know how our readers would respond to that issue; people were still reeling from the sex abuse scandals. But what happened was that it really spoke to them.

It gave Catherine Doherty’s vision of priesthood; proclaimed the unchanging reality of the holiness of the priesthood that goes way beyond the individual priest. And it portrayed the everyday life and goodness of a few individual priests.

We got more feedback on that issue than on any other since I have been editor—and all of it positive.

We also received more requests for extra copies than ever before. One reader and one director of one of our houses ordered enough copies to give one to each priest in their diocese.

And we received two letters—one from Ireland and one from France—both saying that this was just what their country needed to hear at that time.

The letter from France included a request that we translate Catherine’s article, "What is a Priest?" into French. (We gave that priest permission to translate and distribute and try to publish wherever he could.)

Never having dreamed that that issue would take off as it did, we hadn’t ordered enough extra copies. We had to give one reader less than the hundred copies he asked for.

Obviously, Our Lady had wanted an issue on priesthood.

There are other stories I could tell, but I think these give the picture. Our Lady really does take care of this newspaper—as she does everything that is commended to her care.

 

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